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QCAT to decide if sex offenders have capacity to respond to application for ongoing detention

Two classified dangerous sex offenders kept in prison past their sentence completion dates will have to convince a Queensland tribunal that they have the mental capacity to respond to court action on whether they should be granted supervised freedom.

Supreme Court Justice Francis Williams on Monday referred the cases of two men to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to determine if the pair – identified as SLS and FPN – have the capacity to respond to a review of their status in court under the Dangerous Prisoner Sexual Offender Act 2003 (DPSO).

Justice Williams, in separate written decisions, said SLS and FPN were both being detained under interim detention orders under the Act and that issues had arisen in both cases as to whether each had the mental capacity to make decisions on their own behalf.

In the case of FPN, Justice Williams said: “An issue has arisen as to whether (he) is a person with ‘impaired capacity’. There is no application before the Court in respect of the issue of capacity, but rather it is an issue that has arisen on the preliminary evidence currently before the Court. The legal representatives of (FPN) also raised concerns about their ability to take instructions (from him).”

In the case of SLS, Justice Williams said: “An issue has arisen as to whether the respondent (SLS) is a person with ‘impaired capacity’. On 6 May 2021, the respondent (SLS) was admitted to The Park High Security Inpatient Service (mental health facility at Wacol on Brisbane’s western outskirts) where he is subject to involuntary treatment.”

In 2003, the Queensland Government enacted the DPSO laws to provide continued detention in custody or supervised release for a particular class of prisoner to ensure adequate protection of the community and continued control, care and treatment of the prisoner to facilitate their rehabilitation.

The DPSO Act allows Queensland’s Attorney-General to apply to the Supreme Court for an ongoing detention order against a person who is serving the last six months of their period of imprisonment, without the prisoner having committed any further offence.

If the court is satisfied that a prisoner would be a serious danger to the community if released, in the absence of a supervision order it can make either a continuing detention order or a supervision order requiring the prisoner to be released under strict supervision as provided in the DPSO Act.

In the cases of FPN and SLS, Justice Williams said it was appropriate that QCAT be tasked with determining if they had the capacity to respond to pending DPSO Act proceedings in the Supreme Court.

If QCAT deems the pair does not have capacity to respond with the court, it can order a guardian be appointed to act on the behalf and in the best interests of each prisoner.

A date is yet to be fixed for the hearings.

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