Phil’s Story

Phil has a diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia, often experiencing psychosis as a result. Phil was charged with aggravated home burglary, threatening to kill and assault of a public officer. Phil was facing serious charges and the likelihood of a significant term of imprisonment was high. Phil was referred to Ruah Legal Services by the mental health support team at the prison where he was being held on remand.

At first, the lawyer experienced great difficulty in trying to speak with Phil and obtain legal instructions from him, as his mental health was very poor at the time, and he was refusing his medication. The lawyer spoke with the treating team at the prison about other options to assist Phil, and arrangements were made for him to be transferred to a secure hospital ward for treatment to assist in stabilising his mental health. The lawyer adjourned Phil’s matters to provide time for Phil’s mental health to stabilise, and engaged his team’s Key Worker to provide further supports.

The Key Worker accompanied the lawyer to discuss the community supports available alongside the legal representation. Whilst Phil was in hospital the lawyer took the opportunity to make a bail application for Phil. Thanks to the advocacy of the lawyer, Phil was granted bail to a civil mental health hospital which enabled him to continue receiving mental health treatment. The Key Worker assisted in finding Phil appropriate accommodation for when his mental health had stabilised enough to be discharged from hospital.

Phil’s active psychotic symptoms improved whilst he was at hospital which meant the lawyer could obtain instructions from him and enter a plea of guilty for Phil’s charges. Prior to sentencing, the lawyer gathered the medical reports available to establish that Phil’s offences had occurred due to the very poor state of his mental health.

Phil was discharged from hospital to an independent living unit in the community where the Key Worker continued providing support, linking him to community mental health services and liaising with the legal team on his progress. Phil expressed that he felt he did not have any meaningful activities in his life, so the Key Worker assisted Phil to find a volunteering role, which he continued with for over 6 months.

When Phil appeared in the District Court, he was placed on a pre-sentence order for 9 months which would give Phil time to demonstrate that he was addressing the issues that led to his offending behaviour. Phil was linked in with a NDIS worker to provide weekly social and emotional support. When Phil attended his final sentence hearing, the lawyer was successfully able to make the case that Phil’s mental health had been the cause of his offending behaviour and that this risk had been sufficiently addressed with the wrap around support Phil had received.

The Judge commended Phil on the hard work he had done and thanked the team for their ongoing support. The Judge stated that if it were not for all the effort Phil had put in to improve his situation, he would have received a prison sentence for the offences. Instead, Phil received a suspended sentence which allowed him to remain in the community and maintain his involvement in the range of support services he had been linked in with.

*Name changed to protect client privacy.

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We support thousands of people every year – ensuring vulnerable people, and particularly people experiencing mental illness or impacted by the trauma of family violence, receive high-quality advice, advocacy and legal representation.

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Read more about Ruah Legal Services and the Mental Health Law Centre in our annual reports. From 2020-21, we report on our operations as ‘One Ruah’ reflecting our merger with Ruah Community Services in 2019 and the expansion of our integrated legal and non-legal support to families.


RUAH 2022-23 Annual Report

RUAH 2021-22 Annual Report

RUAH 2020-21 Annual Report

MHLC 2019-20 Annual Report

MHLC 2018-19 Annual Report

MHLC 2017-18 Annual Report

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