Media releases

Media releases and statements by Rachel Stephen-Smith

Drug and Alcohol Court commences today

December 03, 2019

The Drug and Alcohol Court has commenced operations today enabling the ACT Supreme Court to sentence substance dependent offenders to treatment orders instead of prison.

Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said the DAC had been established to reduce re-offending where a person’s substance addiction had formed a large part of the reason for their offending.

“There is strong evidence to support the positive, effective and holistic treatment outcomes achieved by Drug and Alcohol Courts in other jurisdictions both nationally and internationally,” Minister Ramsay said.

“The benefits of the Drug and Alcohol Court have a broader positive impact on government and government-funded services as well as on the wider community, particularly through reductions in crime and antisocial behaviour,” he said.

“The Supreme Court will initially assess offenders referred to the Drug and Alcohol Sentencing List to determine if they are eligible to undergo a suitability assessment for a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order.

“Following this suitability assessment, a report detailing the offender’s circumstances and drug treatment options will be prepared for the Court.

“If participants do not follow the treatment plan, or want to stop treatment early, they will be required to complete the rest of their sentence in prison,” Minister Ramsay said.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said that the commencement of the Drug and Alcohol Court would have a broader positive impact on people seeking to improve their lives and reduce the harm caused by substance abuse.

“The ACT Government has been a leader in taking a harm minimisation approach to illicit drug use. The establishment of the Territory’s first Drug and Alcohol Court is another example of our strong commitment to a holistic approach to drug use and the harm is causes at an individual and community level, as outlined in the ACT Drug Strategy Plan 2018-2021.

“This process will help to ensure that crime caused by addiction is also viewed as a health issue, connecting people with the right health supports and services needed to recover from addiction,” said Minister Stephen-Smith.

Deputy CEO of Legal Aid ACT Jane Campbell welcomed the establishment of sentencing options which enabled the creation of the Drug and Alcohol Court.

“This sentencing option provides a real mechanism by which the Court and the offender can address the criminogenic needs of the offender namely, drug dependency,” Ms Campbell said.

“The multi disciplinary approach where both health and corrections play an integral part in the treatment phase recognises that an effective response to crime must address a variety of contributory factors.

Research, and the experience from other jurisdictions within Australia and overseas, have time and time again demonstrated the success of these Courts in providing sustained and intensive support to the participant as they move towards a drug and crime free life.”

Acting Justice Lorraine Walker has been appointed to oversee the establishment and operation of the DAC for a period of 12 months.

The Supreme Court, with the support of ACT Courts and Tribunals, will have control of the daily operations and governance of the Drug and Alcohol Court while ACT Health will take the lead case management role for those on a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order.

The establishment of a Drug and Alcohol Court is a 2016 Parliamentary Agreement item.