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About us and terms of use

About IDRS

The Intellectual Disability Rights Service (IDRS) is a disability advocacy and community legal service. We provide legal assistance and advocacy to people with intellectual disability throughout NSW.

Our services include the provision of legal advice and legal representation.

We advocate for policy and law reform and provides community legal education to advance the rights of people with intellectual disability.

The Criminal Justice Support Network

We also operates the Criminal Justice Support Network (CJSN)

CJSN provides trained volunteers to support people with intellectual disability when they come into contact with the criminal justice system, particularly at the police station, at court and in interviews with lawyers.

CJSN volunteers are present in at least five Local Courts in NSW every day where they provide individual support for defendants with intellectual disability.

Our experience

Through both services, we have gained considerable knowledge, experience and expertise of the issues and barriers facing alleged offenders and their legal representatives in appearing before the Local Courts, particularly in relation to applications under section 32 of the MHFPA.

In recent years, our lawyers have represented numerous defendants with intellectual disability in the Local Court. In most cases, an application under section 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 (NSW) (MHFPA) has been made.

We have found that magistrates are generally open to considering diversion of defendants with intellectual disability via section 32.

Our success rate is over 90 per cent in section 32 applications, including applications for people who have multiple charges and previous section 32 orders.

We have worked with many clients who have appeared repeatedly before the court but whose charges have significantly reduced in frequency or ceased due to receiving effective assistance following a section 32 order.

For others a section 32 order has been the stimulus for seeking early intervention to meet their needs and avoid ongoing clashes with the criminal justice system.

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IDRS contact details

Telephone- 02 9318 0144

Free call- 1800 666 611

Fax- 02 9318 2887



Postal Address-
PO Box 3347,
Redfern NSW 2016

Criminal Justice Support Network (CJSN)

Sydney- 02 9318 0144
Newcastle- 02 4926 5643
Wollongong- 02 4228 4040
Other regional NSW- 02 9318 0144

After hours- 1300 665 908
9:00am - 10:pm, 7 days a week service to get support and legal advice for people with intellectual disability under arrest

Fax- 02 9318 2887


Postal Address-
PO Box 3347,
Redfern NSW 2016

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Credits and Acknowledgements


This Guide (both the printed and the web versions) are funded by Legal Aid NSW through the Community Legal Centres Funding Program with funds from the trustees of the Public Purpose Fund, which was established under the Legal Profession Act 2004 (NSW).

We thank the trustees for their support.

IDRS advises that the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of Legal Aid NSW.

Project development

Many people associated with IDRS, including staff and volunteers of IDRS and CJSN have contributed to the development of this project over many years. In particular we would like to acknowledge the work of Peter McGhee, Anita Sekar, Ben Fogarty and Ali Craig.

The final version of the Guide and the Website have been written by:

  • Karen Wells
    Karen Wells has been a practising solicitor for over ten years. Her area of practice has primarily been in criminal law, and over the past decade she has represented hundreds of clients, many of them with significant intellectual disability, mental health and drug and alcohol problems. She worked for over 6 years with the Aboriginal Legal Service and was the practice manager of that service in Newcastle. She has also held short term contract positions with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution. Karen has worked at IDRS for over 2 years and is also currently employed by Legal Aid New South Wales at Hunter Drug Court. She has a strong interest in criminal law and therapeutic jurisprudence.
  • Janene Cootes
    Janene Cootes is a social worker who has worked with people with disability in community, residential, advocacy and legal settings for over 30 years. Janene was centrally involved in establishing the Intellectual Disability Rights Service in 1986. Janene returned to IDRS in 2002 to work as an educator in the establishment of the Criminal Justice Support Network. Since 2007, she has been the executive officer of IDRS. Janene's wide-ranging experience has provided a wealth of practical knowledge about the challenges faced by people with intellectual disability in the criminal justice system. Janene is also a part-time member of the Guardianship Tribunal of NSW.

This Website was designed and developed by Ushan Wickremanayake, Information and Resource Coordinator, Intellectual Disability Rights Service.


We also thank the following people for their assistance and feedback on various drafts of the Guide and Website: Christine Bourke, Danielle Castles, Robert Cavanagh, Michelle Chapman, Anne Cregan, Steven Doumit, Julie Fleming, John Gallagher, Malcom Gibson, Cindy Graham, Lawrie Gray, Nerissa Keay, Michael Kozlowski, Nicole Lucas, Bronwyn McCutcheon, Janet Manuell SC, Rebecca Neill, Vaughan Roles, Jane Sanders, Brian Sandland, John Sharples, Melinda Smith and Karen Weeks. We also thank Legal Aid NSW and the Public Defenders Office for its ongoing support and advice.

We would also like to thank and acknowledge the enthusiastic and patient volunteers of the CJSN, who on any day of the week are somewhere in a police station, a legal interview or a court room across NSW assisting a person with intellectual disability.

We also acknowledge the many clients who have generously allowed us to learn from their experience and to share their stories through the case studies included in the guide.
These stories are the most compelling reason for lawyers to go the extra mile.

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Terms and Conditions of use

Welcome to our website. If you continue to browse and use this website, you are agreeing to comply with and be bound by the following terms and conditions of use, which together with our privacy policy govern the Intellectual Disability Rights Service Inc.'s relationship with you in relation to this website. If you disagree with any part of these terms and conditions, please do not use our website.

The terms 'Intellectual Disability Rights Service Inc.' or ‘Intellectual Disability Rights Service’ or ‘IDRS’ or 'us' or 'we' refers to the owner of the website whose registered office is Suite 2C, 199 Regent Street, Redfern, NSW 2016, Australia. The Intellectual Disability Rights Service Inc. is a registered non-profit organisation with ABN 11 216 371 524. The term 'you' refers to the user or viewer of our website.

    The use of this website is subject to the following terms of use:
  • The content of the pages of this website is for your general information and use only. It is subject to change without notice
  • This website does not use cookies to monitor browsing preferences.
  • Neither we nor any third parties provide any warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy, timeliness, performance, completeness or suitability of the information and materials found or offered on this website for any particular purpose. You acknowledge that such information and materials may contain inaccuracies or errors and we expressly exclude liability for any such inaccuracies or errors to the fullest extent permitted by law
  • Your use of any information or materials on this website is entirely at your own risk, for which we shall not be liable. It shall be your own responsibility to ensure that any products, services or information available through this website meet your specific requirements
  • This website contains material which is owned by or licensed to us. This material includes, but is not limited to, the design, layout, look, appearance and graphics. Reproduction is prohibited other than in accordance with the copyright notice, which forms part of these terms and conditions
  • All trade marks reproduced in this website which are not the property of, or licensed to, the operator are acknowledged on the website
  • Unauthorised use of this website may give rise to a claim for damages and/or be a criminal offence
  • From time to time this website may also include links to other websites. These links are provided for your convenience to provide further information. They do not signify that we endorse the website(s). We have no responsibility for the content of the linked website(s)
  • Your use of this website and any dispute arising out of such use of the website is subject to the laws of State of New South Wales and Commonwealth of Australia

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The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. The information is provided by the Intellectual Disability Rights Service Inc. and while we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of data or profits arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this website.

Through this website you are able to link to other websites which are not under the control of the Intellectual Disability Rights Service Inc. We have no control over the nature, content and availability of those sites. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them.

Every effort is made to keep the website up and running smoothly. However, the Intellectual Disability Rights Service Inc. takes no responsibility for, and will not be liable for, the website being temporarily unavailable due to technical issues beyond our control.

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