Mental Health Court Program
Since November of 2009, Nova Scotia has been operating a specialized Mental Health Court.
The Mental Health Court hears cases which have been recommended by a mental health court team as being eligible for the program. The team is comprised of a nurse, a social worker, a Probation Officer, a Crown Attorney, and a Legal Aid lawyer. A Provincial Court Judge presides in the Court.
Participation in the Mental Health Court is voluntary. It is for adults (persons 18 years of age and older) charged with a criminal offence within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia. They must have a substantial connection to the Halifax Regional Municipality and must acknowledge responsibility for the act or omission that forms the basis of the offence(s) they are alleged to have committed. They must also have a mental disorder that is a recognized serious and persistent mental illness and is connected to the offence. Finally, the Crown Prosecutor in the Mental Health Court must consent to their participation.
The accused first appears in Provincial Corut for arraignment. At that hearing police, lawyers, Sheriffs, family members/friends or the accused may ask for a referral to the Mental Health Court. The presiding Judge will decide whether the referral is appropriate.
If the accused is referred to the Mental Health Court, a screening assessment will be completed and if accepted into the program a support plan will then be developed. The support plan, agreed to by the participant, will include requirements such as participating in programming and attending clinical appointments. Once referred, it should take 6 weeks to determine whether an individual will be invited to participate in the Mental Health Court.
The Mental Health Court is not a trial court. Participants must accept responsibility for their criminal actions. The Crown Prosecutor for the Mental Health Court must however first determine that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction if the case were to go to trial.
Outcomes may include:
For more information on Nova Scotia's Mental Health Court Program,