Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


LAWS206 Torts

Teaching organisation

Delivered in intensive mode over three weekends, approx. twelve hours of face-to-face teaching, with additional online material.

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit is designed to give students an introduction and overview of the interface between the disciplines of psychiatry and law. It examines how the empirical research and theories of psychiatry intersect with the application of legal principles and practices. As a result of successfully completing this unit, students should be able to translate personal and social issues concerning the study of mental illness into the practice of mental health law and evaluate the efficacy of different perspectives in relation to contemporary debates about mental illness. Students should also demonstrate successful teamwork, involving the ability to participate in collaborative learning activities face-to-face as well as the development of independent learning skills.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Examine and apply mental health law to solve problems related to mental health matters and analyze Mental Health Review Tribunal procedure (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7) 

LO2 - Use legal research and analytical skills to present clear and logical solutions to mental health legal problems and analyze the language of psychiatric and psychological diagnosis as relevant to legal evidence presented before the Mental Health Review Tribunal (GA3, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9) 

LO3 - Understand the concept of Human Rights in the Mental Health Regulations balancing the legal, judicial and clinical parameters to decision making (GA1, GA3, GA10) 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


 Topics will include: 


  • Psychiatrists and Psychologists in Court: the view from the expert witness and legal profession 
  • Introduction to the Mental Health Act 
  • Mental illness- Psychosis, Schizophrenia, Mania, Bipolar Disorder  
  • Treatment and Medication 
  • DSM/ICD classifications 
  • Cognitive Impairment, Intellectual Disability, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 
  • Overview of the Mental Health Act 2007(as amended in 2015) 
  • The criminal justice system, mental health courts and diversion-Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 
  • Jurisdiction of the Mental Health Review Tribunal and NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) 
  • Guardianship, financial management, and consent to treatment 
  • International human rights law- United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons withDisabilities (CRPD) 
  • How does one predict dangerousness including risk assessments 
  • Forensic Psychiatry 
  • Not Guilty on Grounds of Mental Illness 
  • Mental Health and Detention Camps 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This level four elective unit allows students to demonstrate knowledge, skills and understanding in a specialist area of law applying knowledge, skills and understanding acquired in Priestley units.  

Our strategy is to encourage students to creatively engage with unit content and to apply prior learnings to new legal problems.  

This unit is taught in an intensive mode of delivery. Each weekend there will be approximately 12 hours of face-to-face seminar teaching (over three weekends). Students are required to study the online material and prescribed reading and complete activities before attending the weekend face-to-face seminar. You will need to engage with the online material, textbook and seminars in order to successfully complete this unit. We have taken a blended learning approach to provide accessibility and flexibility to our students and a student focused approach that increases depth of learning and engagement through actively utilising LEO.  


Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy is designed to assess knowledge, skills and understanding in a specialist area of law, applying knowledge, skills and understanding acquired in Priestley units.  

The assessment tasks for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each of the learning outcomes listed.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Class Participation 


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Assessment 2-Research Assignment 


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Assessment 3-Final Take Home examination 


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Representative texts and references

Dan Howard and Bruce Westmore, Crime and Mental Health Law in NSW (Lexis Nexis Butterworths, 3rd ed, 2018). 


American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 5th ed, 2013). 


Ashworth, Andrew and Lucia Zedner, Preventive Justice (Oxford University Press, 2014). 


Peter Bartlett and Ralph Sandland, Mental Health Law: Policy and Practice (Oxford University Press, 4th ed, 2013). 


Warren J Brookbanks et al (eds), Psychiatry and the Law (Lexis Nexis Butterworths, 2007). 


Steven Buser and Leonard Cruz, DSM-5 Insanely Simplified: Unlocking the Spectrums Within DSM-5 and ICD-10 (Chiron Publication, 2015). 


Terry Carney et al, Australian Mental Health Tribunals, Space for Fairness, Freedom, Protection and Treatment? (Federation Press, 2011). 


Bonnie Burstow, Brenda A LeFrancois and Shaindl Diamond (eds), Psychiatry Disrupted: Theorizing Resistance and Crafting the (R)evolution (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014) 


Janine Mcilwraith and Bill Madden, Health Care and the Law (Thomson Reuters, 6th ed, 2014). 


Meyer, Robert G and Christopher M Weaver, Law and Mental Health: A Case-Based Approach  

(Guildford Press, 2005, Epub 2013). 


Bernadette McSherry and Penelope Weller (eds), Rethinking Rights-Based Mental Health Laws (Hart Publishing, 1dt ed, 2010) 


New South Wales Institute of Psychology, Mental Health Act 2007 Guide Book (Incorporating the 2015 Mental Health Act 2007 Amendments) (New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry, 5th ed, 2016) ( 


Peter Shea, Defining Madness (Federation Press, 1999). 


Peter Shea, Psychiatry in Court (Federation Press, 2nd ed, 1996). 

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