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Still changing lives

Still changing lives

By Dr Brianna Chesser and Glenn Rutter


The ARC List looks at the underlying causes of offending behaviour for people diagnosed with a mental illness or cognitive impairment. A recent study has shown that it successfully reduces recidivism. The Assessment and Referral Court (ARC) List commenced operation in April 2010 as a specialist court list sitting at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court. It was established with the aim of identifying and addressing the underlying causes of offending behaviours of individuals who are diagnosed with a mental illness or cognitive impairment.1 By addressing issues that underlie offending behaviour the ARC List seeks to reduce the likelihood of reoffending and ongoing contact with the criminal justice system. The ARC List was modelled on North American mental health courts, particularly the Ontario Mental Health Court in Toronto, Canada, and similar interstate programs in South Australia and Tasmania.2 The ARC operates as a pre-sentence list that adjourns formal court processes while the participant engages with the program, during which time the participant is able to access treatment and rehabilitation. Participants must meet three broad criteria in order to gain access to the ARC List: diagnostic, functional and needs.3 Like other similar initiatives,4 the ARC List is statutorily mandated to exercise its jurisdiction with as little formality and technicality and with as much expediency as the proper process would allow.5 The ARC List sits three days per week at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, with up to 20 hearings scheduled for each sitting day. During their involvement in the ARC List, which may be for up to 12 months, participants attend regular, usually monthly, hearings. Between its conception in 2010 and December 2015, there have been 7920 hearings. Hearings are interactive and support the principles of therapeutic jurisprudence6 through recognising the needs of participants and taking a problem-solving approach to issues, barriers and progress.7

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