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While the ACAT, as it is known, deals with a wide variety of disputes between citizens, it deals also with licensing matters, including taxi licensing and security licences, and mental-health matters, often referred from the criminal courts.
In such licencing or mental-health matters, it is advisable to have the services of a lawyer who practices exclusively in the areas of the criminal and traffic law.
Among the major objects of the tribunal, as spelt out in its own Act, are to ensure that access to the tribunal is simple and inexpensive, for all people who need to deal with the tribunal; and to ensure that applications to the tribunal are resolved as quickly as is consistent with achieving justice.
If a decision maker has ruled against you continuing to hold a certain licence, such as a taxi licence or a security licence, you generally have 28 days in which to appeal that decision and seek to have the matter placed before the ACAT.
As a general rule, you should be provided with reasons for the original decision within the same timeframe.
Given the informality of its proceedings, the tribunal sometimes suggests that parties, for example a taxi driver and the Office of Regulatory Services, discuss matters and seek common ground. This can often lead to the reinstatement of a licence, subject to certain conditions.
In relation to a person who is licensed, or registered, under an authorising law, “occupational discipline” means any action the tribunal may take in relation to the person under the authorising law; and includes also any one or more of the following orders:
If the ACAT cancels a person’s licence or registration, the ACAT may disqualify the person from applying for a licence or registration for a stated period or indefinitely.
The ACAT can establish its own procedures and powers, subject to specific requirements in its Act and is to conduct proceedings in a way that is as simple, quick, inexpensive and informal as is consistent with achieving justice.
The tribunal may inform itself in any way it considers appropriate in the circumstances, for example by asking an assessor for expert advice on a matter or relying on tribunal members’ previous experience.
The tribunal must observe natural justice and procedural fairness but is not bound by the rules of evidence.
The tribunal may require the parties to an application to attend a preliminary conference. The tribunal may make inquiries, or require further information from a party, for or during a preliminary conference.
The tribunal may refer issues to a registered mediator and require the parties to attend the mediation.
The tribunal may allow a phone link, a satellite link, an internet or intranet link to be used to hear from a party.
The tribunal may even choose to decide an application without holding a hearing, but must give the parties written notice. If a party wishes to make representations about the tribunal proceeding without a hearing it must do so within 21 days. The tribunal is bound to consider the representations and must not decide a matter without a hearing unless satisfied that it is in the public interest to so.
If asked by a party within 14 days of a decision, the tribunal must give written reasons (or a transcript of oral reasons) for its decision.
Both the ACT Magistrates Court and the ACT Supreme Court can refer defendants to the ACAT for an assessment.
Assessments can be made into whether a person is fit to enter a plea or not, and also into whether or not a person may be found not guilty of a charge by way of mental impairment at the time of the offence, of, if they have been convicted, that they are suffering mental impairment at the time their matter comes to court.
The ACAT must decide that the person is unfit to plead if satisfied that the person’s mental processes are disordered or impaired to the extent that the person cannot:
A person is not considered unfit to plead only because the person is suffering from memory loss.
A court can make a decision about a person being fit or otherwise to plead without referring the matter to ACAT.
Courts can make orders requiring people to submit to the jurisdiction of the ACAT to enable the ACAT to determine whether the person has a mental impairment and, if the ACAT determines that the person has a mental impairment, to make recommendations to the court about how the person should be dealt with.
After an inquiry, and as the ACAT thinks appropriate in relation to the person, the ACAT must determine this on the balance of probabilities.
The courts can, without an ACAT inquiry, find a person not guilty by way of mental impairment and may make an order requiring the accused to submit to the jurisdiction of the ACAT to enable the ACAT to make recommendations as to how he or she should be dealt with.
If the court makes such an order and the ACAT notifies the court of its recommendations, the court shall, in consideration of the ACAT’s recommendations, make any further orders it considers appropriate.
The orders the court may make include:
If the Magistrates Court is satisfied that an accused person is mentally impaired; and on an outline of the facts to be alleged in the proceedings, or any other evidence the Magistrates Court considers relevant, the court may:
In doing this, the court shall have regard to—
The Magistrates Court may only dismiss the charge with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
If a person has been convicted of an offence in the Supreme Court or Magistrates Court and the court is satisfied that the convicted person has a mental impairment, the court may, before sentencing the convicted person, order him or her to submit to the jurisdiction of the ACAT to enable the ACAT:
If the ACAT notifies the relevant court that a convicted person has a mental impairment, the court shall, in consideration of the ACAT’s recommendations, make any order it considers appropriate.
Those orders may include an order that the person submit to the jurisdiction of the ACAT to enable the ACAT to make a mental health order.
If the court orders a person who is found by the ACAT to have a mental impairment to be sentenced to a period of imprisonment, the court shall not order the person to be imprisoned for a period greater than any period of imprisonment to which the person could have been sentenced, apart from that finding.
Before making a mental health order in relation to a person, the ACAT considers an assessment of the person conducted under an assessment order, which includes thorough expert assessment at a designated mental-health facility. It can also consider another assessment of the person that the ACAT considers appropriate.
The ACAT has broad powers over assessment orders. It can direct the person in charge of a mental-health facility:
Before making a mental-health order, the ACAT must, as far as practicable, consult with anyone with parental responsibility for person, or their guardian and with the person most likely to be responsible for providing the treatment, programs and other services proposed to be ordered.
In making a mental health order, the ACAT must take into account:
The ACAT may make a psychiatric treatment order if the person has a mental illness and the ACAT has reasonable grounds for believing that, because of the illness, the person is likely to:
unless subject to involuntary psychiatric treatment.
The ACAT must be satisfied that psychiatric treatment is likely to reduce the harm or deterioration (or the likelihood of harm or deterioration) and result in an improvement in the person’s psychiatric condition.
A community care order may state one or more of the following:
If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.
Contact Armstrong Legal:
Canberra: (02) 6288 1100
Brisbane: (07) 3229 4448
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555
Melbourne: (03) 9620 2777