Disability discrimination did not protect person displaying violent behaviour

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Disability discrimination did not protect person displaying violent behaviour

A person who displays violent behaviour cannot seek redress under the Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 by arguing that their violent behaviour was caused by a mental disability, the High Court has ruled.

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11/03

 

A person who displays violent behaviour cannot seek redress under the Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 by arguing that their violent behaviour was caused by a mental disability, the High Court has ruled.

A school student had been suspended and subsequently excluded from school because he assaulted teachers and other pupils.

Matters argued on appeal included:

  • where pupil's behaviour was as a consequence of brain damage, was the pupil discriminated against on the ground of disability?

  • what is the meaning of "disability"?

  • was there an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation or make reasonable adjustments for persons with a disability?

The High Court concluded that the appeal must fail.

The Court assumed for present purposes that the appellant's argument that a person's behaviour in consequence of that person's disorder falls within the definition of disability. Even on that assumption, the Disability Discrimination Act could not be sensibly read as extending to behaviour which constituted criminal or quasi-criminal conduct.

If it were intended to include, as a disability, behaviour which was criminal then the legislation would surely have said so in clear terms.

The conduct in question here was of a criminal or quasi-criminal kind, including offensive language and assaults. The definition of disability was not to be read as covering criminal or quasi-criminal behaviour.

If it were otherwise, behaviour with a capacity to injure or kill someone, or to damage property (by, for example, burning a school down), could be excused.

See: Purvis v New South Wales (Department of Education and Training) [2003] HCA 62 (11 November 2003).

 

 

 

 

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