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On the 24th day of October 2017 the Queensland Government passed the Penalties and Sentences (Drug and Alcohol Treatment Orders) and other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. The Bill was introduced into Parliament on the 10th day of August 2017 with a view to enabling Drug and Alcohol Treatment Orders to be included into the existing sentencing framework within Queensland. The Drug Court has previously operated in Queensland and unfortunately, the Drug Court Act 2000 was repealed in 2013 thus ceasing the operation of the Drug Court in Queensland. The Legislation came into effect as of the 29th day of January 2018.

In a welcome move, the reintroduction of the Drug and Alcohol Court will assist in targeting adult offenders that require significant interventions to address their drug and/or alcohol dependency issues that are associated with their criminal offending.

Initially, the Drug and Alcohol Court is expected to be in operation in Brisbane  and it is understood that there is hope it will be rolled out to other centres within Queensland.

Rehabilitation and diversionary programs are an integral part of our justice system and allow for offenders to address the cause of their offending in a hope that they will be able to remove themselves from the criminal justice system.

It is hoped that the Drug and Alcohol Court will facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders providing a judicially supervised therapeutic orientated and integrated treatment regime to reduce severe substance abuse and therefore, reduce the level of criminal activity associated with the abuse of drugs and alcohol with a view to defendants being reintegrated back into the community.

The Drug and Alcohol Court will not simply be open to anyone and there will be requirements and conditions that must be met for a person to be included in the Drug and Alcohol Court Program. This does include that the defendant’s severe substance use contributed to the commission of an eligible offence and the offender agrees to an order being made.

Under the legislation, an eligible offence is a summary offence or indictable offence that is dealt with summarily. It is noted that the Bill which was tabled, proposed that certain indictable offences be allowed to be dealt with summarily if both the defendant and Prosecution agree to a Treatment Order being made.

This would essentially widen the jurisdiction in the Magistrates Court and allow a Drug and Alcohol Court Magistrate to impose a maximum penalty of four (4) years when making a Treatment Order for an offence which would normally be dealt with on indictment but due to the consent, being dealt with on a summary basis.

At Howden Saggers Lawyers we welcome the reintroduction of the Drug and Alcohol Court. Joe Wicking, Senior Associate said “the Drug Court will assist those who are struggling with drug and alcohol addictions to address their problems. The legislative framework that has been proposed is indeed not a soft option as there are significant punitive factors in play for those who breach or are non-compliant with their orders.”