An Examination of Stakeholder Attitudes and Understanding of Therapeutic Jurisprudence in a South Australian Mental Health Court.

Dr. Loraine Lim1

1 Forensic Psychologist, 245 Sturt Street, Adelaide South Australia 5000,

Mental health courts represent a key component of contemporary responses to mental illness and disability in the criminal justice system, and yet there is uncertainty about how these courts should balance their punishment and treatment roles. This presentation will report an analysis of interviews with court professionals, which considered their understanding of the rationale underpinning the South Australian mental health diversion court, its effectiveness in achieving its criminal justice and clinical goals, and of the broader notions of therapeutic jurisprudence. The interviews generally revealed considerable support for diversionary mental health court programs of this type and professional confidence that this type of program is effective. However, thematic analyses conducted also highlighted conflict in the practice frameworks of the different professional groups who regularly contribute to the operations of the court. This presentation will conclude with suggestions as to how mental health courts in Australia can overcome its functional and operational challenges by integrating theoretical knowledge with practical strategies.


Dr Lim was employed in South Australia’s Drug Court, Magistrates Court Diversion, and Treatment Intervention Programs for close to a decade. She is currently a Forensic Psychologist in private practice in South Australia, and an adjunct Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Adelaide. She completed her PhD through Deakin University in Victoria whilst she was still employed with the South Australia’s Court Administration Authority (CAA), where she conducted a series of research on their mental health diversion and co-morbidity court programs. She continued to be involved in research and evaluations of these programs in SA, post-doctorate, until she left the CAA late last year (2016).

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