People with mental illness


  • Judicial Commission of NSW, Equality before the Law: Bench Book (2022).
    [] outlines some psychiatric disabilities (although they are not specifically considered in the context of domestic and family abuse).


  • Supreme Court of Queensland, Equal Treatment Bench Book (2nd ed, 2016).
    • Although this bench book does not discuss the relationship between domestic violence and psychiatric disabilities, the section on witnesses with psychiatric disabilities may be relevant where a person appears as a witness (eg. an alleged victim/or perpetrator of domestic violence) before the court.
    • Specifically the bench book notes (pp125-126): ‘Witnesses with psychiatric disabilities may find the court environment especially stressful. At hearings, it must be recognised that a witness with a psychiatric disability may find it difficult to concentrate and remember. There may also be communication barriers, for example, if the person is easily distracted, distressed, anxious, frightened, manic, delusional or aggressive. Certain adjustments may be necessary for witnesses with psychiatric disabilities. For example:’

      • there may be a need to repeat information;
      • it may be necessary to rephrase questions;
      • there may be a need to provide regular breaks because of short concentration spans;
      • the witness should be afforded adequate familiarisation with the court room;
      • practitioners should provide appropriate amounts of time in their estimates for trial to accommodate necessary adjustments; and
      • particularly vulnerable witnesses may benefit from the application of s 21A of the Evidence Act 1977 (Qld).


  • Judicial College of Victoria, Family Violence Bench Book (2014).
    5.2.6 notes the mental health effects of family violence. 4.1.4 notes that whether a family violence offender suffers from a mental impairment is relevant to determining whether to refuse bail.


  • Western Australia Department of Justice, Equal Justice Bench Book, Family and Domestic Violence (updated September 2022).
    Mental illness is not specifically considered in the context of domestic and family abuse; see especially ‘Impacts on women’ (13.2.2), which references the VicHealth Study referenced above and lists some of the wide-ranging effects of intimate partner violence on women’s mental health.


  • Neilson, Linda C, Domestic Violence Electronic Bench Book (National Judicial Institute, 2020).

    Chapter 21: Mental and Physical Disability comprehensively discusses mental disability, including information on enhanced risks for persons with a disability; prevalence and reporting of domestic violence in disability contexts; forms of domestic violence and court options to enhance assessment of domestic violence in disability cases. It also provides a very detailed section on process issues around domestic violence in a disability context.

    Reference is also made throughout the bench book to mental health, including:

    • ‘Domestic violence can produce scientifically verifiable mental health reactions, including post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and panic disorder, hypervigilance as well as a host of short- and long-term physical medical conditions’ (Section 5.2.2);
    • In relation to perpetrators and mental illness, Section 7.2.4: Mental illness rationalization discusses mental illness as a risk factor for both the victim’s and children’s safety. However, it emphasises that mental illness should not be considered a cause of domestic violence, but rather an aggravating factor. It also cautions against the use of neuroscience research in court to explain domestic violence perpetration.