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Section 32 Mental Health Applications

If a court deals with a matter under s.32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act it means that a person is diverted into a treatment plan rather than facing a potential conviction.

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Section 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 allows a court to discharge a matter on the condition that the person enter into the prescribed treatment plan for a period of no more than 6 months. This is an alternative to dealing with the matter under the usual criminal law provisions.

There is a similar version of this application for Commonwealth offences, rather than state based ones, contained in section 20BQ of the Commonwealth Crimes Act 1914.

There are a number of requirements that must be met for this kind of application to be successful.

In it’s most basic form, to satisfy one of these applications a defendant must show:

  • That they are cognitively impaired; or
  • That they are suffering from a mental illness; or
  • That they are suffering from a mental condition that can be treated in the community; and
  • That there is a nexus between the illness, condition or impairment and the offence.

This is usually done through medical reports from psychiatrists, or sometimes psychologists. The reports need to meet a series of requirements which is outlined in the legislation but must include a treatment plan for future treatment.

Section 32 applications are not just as simple as meeting the criteria and having the matter diverted.

A court must also be satisfied that it is more appropriate to deal with the matter by way of section 32.

Some things that can prevent a magistrate from wanting to deal with the matter by way of section 32 is where:

  • The offence is too serious
  • The offence is highly prevalent
  • Treatment has had no demonstrable impact on curbing the criminal offending of the defendant