Marlon Noble’s release after 10 years behind bars without a trial has been welcomed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda and Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes.
But both Commissioners have called for the criminal justice system and the mental health system to be more flexible in the way it deals with people with disabilities and have also called for the removal of onerous conditions placed on Mr Noble’s release.
Despite being found unfit to stand trial in 2003 and never actually being convicted of anything, Mr Noble has remained in prison until yesterday after being accused of sexually assaulting two girls in Western Australia in 2001.
Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said even though Mr Noble was never convicted, the conditions attached to his release treat him like a convicted criminal.
“Mr Noble needs to be given an opportunity to clear his name and he needs to be able to return to the life he was robbed of 10 years ago,” Commissioner Gooda said.
“The conditions attached to his release read like a lifetime punishment but it is for someone who has never been found guilty of anything.
“For example, he is not allowed to stay anywhere other than his own place without the permission of the West Australian Mentally Impaired Accused Review Board, something which will prevent him from travelling to visit the grave of his mother who was murdered while he was in jail, unless he has the Board’s permission,” Mr Gooda said.
Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes said the law needs to be reformed so that what happened to Mr Noble never happens to anyone ever again.
“Marlon Noble lost a decade of his life due to Western Australia's laws on the treatment of people with cognitive disabilities facing criminal charges. He would have been released from prison years ago if he had been tried and found guilty of the sexual assault offences but he was never tried and therefore never found guilty, and yet he still remained in prison,” Commissioner Innes said.
“It is disturbing that this could happen to Mr Noble, but it is even more disturbing as he is not alone and I’m aware of several other similar cases,” Mr Innes said.
“We can never give Marlon Noble back the years wasted in prison but we must give him the chance to clear his name and change the laws and the system to make sure people with disabilities are not locked away in prison for lengthy periods for crimes for which they have never been convicted,” Commissioner Gooda said.
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