Monday 16 June, 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Access to justice is a significant issue for people with disabilities around Australia. Earlier this year the Australian Human Rights Commission released its report Equal before the law: towards disability justice strategies that focused on people with disabilities who need communication supports or who have complex and multiple support needs and who have come in contact with the criminal justice system. Negative assumptions and attitudes, coupled with a lack of support services and minimal provision of adjustments, often means that people with disabilities are viewed as not credible, not capable of giving evidence or unable to participate in legal proceedings. As a result many are left without effective access to justice. This report addresses these injustices.
Since the release of the report a number of state and territory governments have acknowledged our finding, and are considering how they might develop Disability Justice Strategies. In this session our panel will discuss the issues and challenges surrounding access to justice for people with disabilities, whilst exploring some of the programmes and services that have proven successful in various jurisdictions.
- Mark Ierace, SC Senior Public Defender
- Jim Simpson, Senior Advocate for the NSW Council of Intellectual Disability
- Therese Sands, Co-executive Director of People with Disability Australia
- Assistant Commissioner Denis Clifford
Jim Simpson is a lawyer and advocate who has worked in the disability field for thirty years. Moving from private legal practice as a partner in a city firm, he took a central role in establishing the Intellectual Disability Rights Service in Sydney.
Jim now does systemic advocacy work as Senior Advocate for the NSW Council for Intellectual Disability. This has included considerable involvement in law reform and access to justice issues. At present, much of Jim’s work is aimed at equitable access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme for people with intellectual disability who are in contact with the criminal justice system.
Tribunal work is Jim’s other main focus. He is a presiding member of the NSW Guardianship Tribunal and Mental Health Review Tribunal.
Mark Ierace SC was admitted to the NSW Bar in 1981. He has appeared as a private barrister variously for the defence and prosecution, as a Public Defender, as in-house counsel for the Commonwealth DPP and as counsel assisting the NSW Police Integrity Commission. He is a member of the NSW Sentencing Council and has been the Senior Public Defender since 2007.
He has a long-standing interest in intellectual disability and criminal law. He is the author of “Intellectual Disability; A Criminal Lawyers’ Manual” published in 1989. In 1994 he was seconded to the NSW Law Reform Commission, to assist the Commission with its reference; People with an Intellectual Disability and the Criminal Justice System. He has appeared in many cases where the intellectual disability of an accused person has been a major consideration.
He has also practised as an international criminal lawyer in the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, leading the team that prosecuted the commander of the troops that perpetrated the siege of Sarajevo. Between 2009 and 2012 he was a Senior Visiting Fellow at the University of New South Wales, where he taught International Criminal Law.
Therese has worked for over 20 years in education, training, policy development and advocacy in the area of disability and human rights. A key area of her work focuses on engaging with international human rights mechanisms to progress the rights of people with disability. Therese has participated on a number of non-government (NGO) working groups preparing for United Nations (UN) reviews of Australia under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). She acted as co-coordinator of the NGO delegation for the first UN review of Australia under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). She has a Master of Human Rights Law and Policy from the University of NSW. Therese is a Life Member of People with Disability Australia (PWDA) and PWDA Co-Chief Executive Officer.
Assistant Commissioner Denis Clifford joined the NSW Police Force on 21 September 1971.
Among other corporate level portfolios, Assistant Commissioner Clifford is the Corporate Sponsor for Vulnerable Communities, and is a member of various inter-agency committees including the Justice Disability Advisory Council.