Monday, 21 August 2023
Drug Court expansion a welcome start to more diversion reform
Expanding the Drug Court operating in the Sydney CBD represents a solid beginning to further reforms to divert more people from the criminal justice system in appropriate cases.
President of the Law Society of NSW Cassandra Banks welcomed the announcement by the Attorney General and the Minister for Health that the Downing Centre Drug Court will, by early 2024, increase its operations from one day a week to full time.
“The Law Society has long advocated for wider availability of programs that divert suitable offenders from the criminal justice system, so the underlying causes of their offending can be addressed,” Ms Banks said.
“Research has proven that the Drug Court program is more effective than a prison sentence when it comes to reducing the chances a defendant will reoffend. Diversionary programs, like the Drug Court, make more sense than locking people up with limited means of assisting them to tackle the issues that led to their offending.”
The Drug Court deals with offenders charged with relatively serious offences. Following a guilty plea, offenders are remanded in custody to complete mandatory detoxification and assessment. A suspended prison sentence is imposed, allowing the offender to complete a tailored treatment program.
“This process holds the offender to account for their actions, but also provides them a real opportunity to rebuild their lives. The lower rate of reoffending among Drug Court participants makes the community safer and saves taxpayers the expense of keeping them locked up,” Ms Banks said.
“As a regional legal practitioner, I’ve seen the damage drug dependency can cause to individuals and the community. Failure to address drug use as an underlying cause of offending can entrench health problems, harm family relationships and prevent those affected from finding or keeping a job. That’s why one of my priorities for this year is to advocate for greater access to diversion from the criminal justice system for vulnerable cohorts.”
Ms Banks encouraged the Government to consider closely similarly expanding the availability of Drug Courts in other parts of the state, including existing Courts operating at Parramatta, Dubbo and in the Hunter.
Damien Smith | Director, Media and Public Relations
The Law Society of New South Wales
M: +61 417 788 947 | E: Damien.Smith@lawsociety.com.au