WHAT IS THE DRUG COURT PROGRAM?
The Drug Court is a diversionary program for drug-dependent offenders who are facing a likely sentence of imprisonment. It provides an opportunity for eligible offenders to instead undergo supervised treatment in the community, designed to reduce or eliminate their drug dependence.
Participation in the Drug Court Program is on a voluntary basis, and the whole program takes a minimum of 12 months.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
To be able to participate in the Drug Court, the person must:
- Be an adult;
- Be highly likely to be sentenced to full-time imprisonment if convicted;
- Have indicated that he or she will plead guilty to the offence;
- Be dependent on the use of prohibited drugs;
- Reside within within one of the following local government areas: Auburn; Bankstown; Baulkham Hills; Blacktown; Campbelltown; Fairfield; Hawkesbury; Holroyd; Liverpool; Parramatta; Penrith, or the Hills Shire
- Be referred from one of the following Local or District Courts: Bankstown; Blacktown; Burwood; Campbelltown; Fairfield; Liverpool; Parramatta; Penrith; Richmond; Ryde; and Windsor;
- Be willing to participate;
- Not charged with an offence involving violent conduct or sexual assault;
- Not charged with a serious drug offence; and
- Not suffering from a mental condition that could prevent or restrict participation in the program
WHAT ARE THE STEPS INVOLVED?
An application for a referral to the Drug Court Program can be made by a range of people, including the offender themselves and their lawyers. The judge or magistrate of the matter will then determine whether the person appears to meet the eligibility criteria, and if so refer the matter to the Drug Court.
Once the matter is referred, the offender will make an appearance before the Drug Court, and preliminary inquiries as to eligibility are made, including an evaluation of drug dependency.
If the Court decides that an applicant is eligible, the person will be taken into custody for approximately two weeks of detoxification and assessment. Whilst in custody, applicants are given further information about the requirement of the Program, together with a copy of the undertaking which details the conditions of the Program. During this time, a treatment plan is formulated, tailored to the individual’s specific treatment needs.
Once their treatment plan is ready, the offender returns to the Drug Court and receives an initial sentence for the original charges. The Court suspends this initial sentence upon the offender entering into the Program.
Each participant’s Program comprises three phases.
1. ‘Initiation’ Phase (three months)
Participants are expected to reduce drug use, stabilise their physical health and cease criminal activity. Participants are required to undergo drug testing at least three times a week and to report back to the Drug Court once a week.
2. ‘Consolidation’ Phase (three months)
Participants are expected to remain drug-free and crime-free, and develop life and job skills. Testing for drug use is conducted twice weekly and report-back court appearances occur fortnightly.
3. ‘Reintegration’ Phase (six months)
Participants are expected to gain or be ready to gain employment, and to be financially responsible. Drug testing is conducted twice weekly and report-back court appearances are conducted monthly.
The Program will last for at least 12 months unless it is terminated sooner. A Drug Court Program can be terminated when:
- The participant completes the program,
- The participant applies to have it terminated, or
- The Court decides that the participant is unlikely to make any further progress in the program, or that further participation poses an unacceptable risk to the community that the offender will re-offend.
When a program is terminated the Court will consider the initial sentence. The Court will take into account the nature of the offender’s participation in the program, any sanctions that have been imposed and any time spent in custody during the program.
When the Court finds that a participant has substantially complied with a program a non-custodial sentence is the usual order.