This procedure relates to statutory functions of the Children’s Court Clinic.

 

When to use this procedure

When the court has requested, or is considering requesting, an assessment by the Children’s Court Clinic.

 

What else you need to know

Make sure you have read and understood the following procedures:

 

Practice context and legislation

  • The Children’s Court Clinic (the clinic) is a statewide service funded by the Department of Justice.
  • The clinic is independent of all parties, and provides independent, professional psychological and psychiatric expert advice to the children’s court.
  • The clinic:
    • conducts clinical assessments of children and their families who are involved in a children’s court process
    • provides a report to the requesting court to inform its decision making
    • provides clinical services to children and their families.
  • Assessments are ordered by seeking additional information about a young person’s history and/or functioning.
  • Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists conduct the assessments, which can only be ordered by a judge or magistrate of the criminal or family division of the children’s court.
  • In the criminal division, an assessment can only be requested if a young person has been found guilty of an offence. The report can make a sentencing recommendation.
  • Referrals can be requested for an assessment of the intellectual functioning and development of a young person aged 10–13 to assist in the determination of whether or not the doli incapax is applicable.
  • To ensure confidentiality, reports are only released on the order of the sentencing magistrate.
 

Roles and key tasks

Case manager

  • Identify the need for an assessment by clinic and discuss an adjournment for this purpose with the legal representative.
  • Support the young person, and where appropriate his or her family, to attend any clinic appointments.
  • Liaise with the clinic and provide information that may prove useful.
  • Discuss proposed recommendations with the clinic prior to the matter returning to court.
  • Request the release of the report to youth justice upon finalisation of proceedings.
 

The procedure in detail

Referral to the clinic

The clinic's involvement with a young person is initiated by the court and can only occur while a case is ongoing.

A referral request can be specific or unspecific, and include:

  • to prepare an additional report
  • to provide clinical services.

The terms of reference for a clinic assessment are recommended to the court before the court orders the assessment.

If youth justice has raised the need for an assessment, inform the court or the young person's legal representative of the rationale, and clarify what is sought from the clinic (for example, the clinic is to consider if a neurological assessment is required).

Clinical assessments

The assessment is conducted in the knowledge that the clinician is required to prepare a report for the court.

Generally assessments are conducted at the court clinic premises or at Parkville Youth Justice Precinct if the young person is in custody.

If the clinician is required to travel to a regional area to conduct an assessment, this should be raised with the magistrate/judge before ordering the assessment.

If further assessment is needed, or treatment or therapy is indicated by the clinical assessment, this referral is negotiated by the clinic after court.

Providing information to the clinic

If a clinic assessment is ordered, the court will provide the clinic with information already in the court file (for example court, addendum or breach reports).

The exchange of information between youth justice and the clinic can occur during the period of preparation of reports, when forming recommendations and following the completion of a clinic report.

To bring new information to the attention of the clinic:

  • provide verbal information to the clinic
  • if further court appearances occur during the clinic report preparation period, file a progress report containing relevant information with the court.

Ensure all information provided to the clinic whether verbal or written is relevant and substantiated as it may be included in the clinic report.

Disputed clinic reports

Before raising the matter in court, consult with your team if:

  • information in the clinic report is factually incorrect
  • the clinic report assessment, treatment and/or recommendations raise significant issues.

If necessary, the clinician may be cross-examined on disputed material.

Distribution of and access to criminal division reports

If the court orders a report from the clinic, the report must be prepared and submitted at least three working days before the hearing date.

The clinic is responsible for distributing its report to:

  • the young person
  • the legal practitioner representing the young person
  • any other person whom the court has ordered to receive a copy.

A report can be withheld if:

  • the clinician believes the information in the report may be prejudicial to the physical or mental health of the young person
  • the young person objects to the forwarding of copies of the report.

The clinician is required to inform the registrar of the recommendation to withhold the report or selected information.

The court decides if the report or a specified part of the report are withheld or distributed.

Drug program

The clinic's drug program is available to young people appearing in the criminal division who have demonstrated substance misuse.

It provides:

  • clinical assessment
  • referral and treatment.

The service aims to:

  • divert young offenders who have a drug problem
  • develop a commitment to drug treatment
  • reduce the risk of further criminal activity to support drug use.

Drug treatment services are brokered by ACSO COATS or a local community drug agency and include:

  • counselling
  • youth outreach
  • withdrawal services
  • supported accommodation.

The service operates during an adjournment period ordered by the court.

The clinic provides a final report to the court at the conclusion of the treatment service.

The young person's progress is taken into account by the court in any subsequent sentencing process.

Confidentiality of clinic reports

Section 552(1) of the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 prescribes that a person who prepares or receives a report must not without consent of the young person disclose any information contained in that report to any person who is not entitled to receive or have access to that report.