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Supervision Orders (NT)

Under the Criminal Code Act 1983, a person who is found not guilty of an offence on the basis of mental impairment may be ordered to be subject to supervision. A supervision order may require the person to be kept in custody or allow them to be released into the community. This is because a person who is not guilty of a criminal offence because of mental impairment may, to greater or lesser degrees, still post a risk to the community, depending on the sorts of acts they are prone to committing and the nature of their mental impairment. This article outlines supervision orders in the Northern Territory.

How do supervision orders work?

A supervision order can require a person to be:

  • Committed to custody in a correctional facility;
  • Committed to custody in another appropriate place;
  • Released.

The court may only make a custodial supervision order committing a person to a correctional facility if there is no other practicable alternative in the circumstances.

The court may make it a condition that a person authorised by the CEO of Health may use reasonable force to enforce the order or to restrain the person from harming themselves or another person. However, this may be done only in accordance with the supervision directions.

A supervision order is for an indefinite term.

Appealing against supervision orders

A person who is made subject to a supervision order has the same appeal rights as a person who is sentenced for a criminal offence.

The CEO of Health may also initiate an appeal if they consider that a different supervision order should have been made or that the appeal is in the public interest.

Varying or revoking orders

An application to vary or revoke a supervision order can be made by:

  • The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP);
  • The supervised person;
  • The supervised person’s next of kin;
  • The person who has custody, care or control of the supervised person;

If a supervised person applies to vary or revoke their supervision order and the court refuses, they may not apply again for 12 months.

When the court hears the application, it may:

  • confirm the order;
  • revoke the order unconditionally;
  • vary the conditions of the order.

Urgent variation applications

If a person is on a non-custodial supervision order and it appears to the DPP that they are not complying with the order or are not likely to comply with the order and that the order needs to be varied urgently, they can make an urgent application to vary the order.

If the person does not attend the hearing of the application, the court may issue a warrant for their arrest.

Interim orders

When an application has been made for the variation or revocation of a supervision order and the hearing needs to be adjourned, the court may make an interim order for the supervised person. This order may be custodial or non-custodial and does not revoke the supervision order but remains in place until the application has been decided.

Non-compliance with supervision orders

Under section 43ZF of the Criminal Code Act, if a police officer suspects on reasonable grounds that a person is not complying with their supervision order and that the safety of that person or of the public is at risk if they are not apprehended, they may apprehend the person.

Other jurisdictions

The NT has been criticised for its lack of facilities for those who are found not guilty of offences on the basis of mental impairment. The NT has mental health facilities at the Royal Darwin Hospital, which are used to house both voluntary and involuntary mental health patients.

Many people who are found not guilty of violent offences based on mental impairment in the NT are housed in prison, meaning that the practical consequences of the not guilty verdict for the person are essentially the same as if they had been found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment. In some cases, a person may in fact spend more time in prison than they would have if they had been found guilty of the offence, as a person is only released from custody on a supervision order if the order is varied or revoked.

In 2016, the Law Reform Committee conducted a review of interactions between people with mental health issues and the criminal justice system. Its report made 22 recommendations about how the system could be reformed to better accommodate the needs of the mentally ill.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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