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The Justice Advocacy Service (JAS) supports adults and young people with a cognitive impairment who are in contact with the NSW criminal justice system – as victims, witnesses and suspects/defendants. The service supports clients to exercise their rights and fully participate in criminal justice processes.
The JAS is delivered by the Intellectual Disability Rights Service and is available across NSW, including in rural, regional and remote areas. The JAS team use an individual advocacy approach by arranging a support person to be with the victim, witness or suspect/defendant when they are in contact with the criminal justice system.
A potential client does not need to provide evidence of a cognitive impairment to access the service. If police, court staff, legal representatives, correctional officers or other stakeholders believe the person may have a cognitive impairment, a referral can be made to the JAS.
From July 2022 the JAS has expanded its functions to include a court-based diversion service in six NSW local courts (Downing Centre, Parramatta, Blacktown, Penrith, Gosford and Lismore local courts).
The court-based diversion service is available to defendants who:
The service will promote diversion orders under section 14 of the Mental Health and Cognitive Impairment Forensic Provisions Act 2020 for eligible defendants with a cognitive impairment.
To assist eligible defendants, a JAS Diversion Coordinator has been appointed at each local court, and their role is to:
If you, or someone you know, could be supported by the JAS please call 1300 665 908. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Mental Health and Cognitive Impairment Forensic Provisions Act 2020 NSW provides a definition for cognitive impairment. Further, Section 14 of the Act enables a Magistrate to make an order to dismiss a charge or discharge eligible defendants with a cognitive impairment.
Under the Act cognitive impairment may arise from the following conditions but may also arise for other reasons:
An independent evaluation found the JAS significantly improved the outcomes for people with a cognitive impairment in the criminal justice system by helping them understand and navigate police, court and legal systems and supporting access to diversionary options.
The evaluation also found the JAS’ geographic coverage, high availability service model and use of volunteers allowed it to meet the demand for supports. It also benefited from strong networks and referral pathways, and the ability to work effectively with other services, particularly Legal Aid NSW and the courts.
Download the Evaluation of the Justice Advocacy Service final report: 4 February 2021 (PDF, 2.4 MB).
To request an accessible version of this report or if you have any questions about the JAS program, please contact JAS@justice.nsw.gov.au.
31 Aug 2023
We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future.
Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.
You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.