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S32 Step By Step Guide

Developmental Disability

Section 32(1)(a)(i): people who are developmentally disabled

The term 'developmentally disabled' is not defined in the MHFPAMental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 NSW. Magistrates may be unfamiliar with the meaning of this term and lawyers may need to clarify the meaning of the term for the magistrate.

The term 'developmental disability' was widely used in Australia in the 1980s and 1990s.

It is defined in the 1983 Richmond Report NSW Inquiry into Health Services for the Psychiatrically Ill and Developmentally Disabled:

[Developmental disability is] a severe, chronic disability which is attributable to intellectual or physical impairment, is manifested before the person attains the age of 18, is likely to continue indefinitely and results in functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity: self-care; receptive and expressive language; learning; mobility; self-direction; capacity for independent living and economic self-sufficiency.

NSW Inquiry into Health Services for the Psychiatrically Ill and Developmentally Disabled 1983, Part 2, pp

This definition is in keeping with definitions used in Australia and internationally.

Shortly after the release of the Richmond Report, the Crimes (Mental Disorder) Amendment Act 1983 (NSW) introduced the term 'developmental disability' in the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) in sections 428W and 428X, which are the predecessors of section 32 and section 33 of the MHFPAMental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 NSW.

    The term 'developmental disability' applies to a wider group of disabilities than the term 'intellectual disability'. It includes:
  • intellectual disability
  • cerebral palsy
  • epilepsy
  • autism (including Asperger's disorder)
  • some neurological conditions

Source: Errol Cocks, An Introduction to Intellectual Disability in Australia, 3rd edition, Australian Institute on Intellectual Disability 1998

The term 'developmentally disabled' would also include people with ABIAcquired Brian Injury from accident or illness prior to the age of 18 and may include people with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which can be a seriously impairing disorder which may extend into adulthood.

Intellectual disability is clearly a developmental disability. If your client has been assessed as having any level of intellectual disability they clearly have a developmental disability and come within the ambit of section 32.

Intellectual disability is the main focus of this guide and is discussed in detail in What is intellectual disability?

Other developmental disabilities that fall within the jurisdiction of section 32 include:

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Asperger's disorder
  • Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

and are discussed on Autism .

EligibilityIntellectual disability

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