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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 6 Hansard (6 June) . . Page.. 2261 ..


This legislation will focus on a select cohort of people who face sentencing in the ACT Supreme Court. These are people whose addictions have resulted in serious consequences for them, for their families and for the whole community. The drug and alcohol court will offer them a pathway away from certain incarceration. Addressing their dependencies will break a cycle of dependence and break a cycle of offending that causes harm to our whole community.

To be eligible, a person will need to take responsibility by pleading guilty. Only certain criminal matters are eligible—namely, indictable crimes for which the Supreme Court will impose a sentence of at least one year but not more than four. Serious crimes of violence like murder or manslaughter, sexual offences and cases where the sentence will be longer than four years are excluded.

The bill provides for a solution-focused process which draws on the lessons learned across Australia about how to deliver a successful drug court. The way it will work is by fostering a relationship between the person who committed a crime, the presiding judge, and health and social service providers. That relationship will, in turn, support offenders to overcome dependency and to leave the justice system with a better set of tools to participate in society.

Each participant will have an individualised treatment and sentence management plan that includes intensive supervision, frequent urine and breath testing, and regular and ongoing contact with health and corrections staff. A scheme of rewards and sanctions will support compliance. Progress will be rewarded, and breaches will be sanctioned through a system of swift, certain and proportionate consequences. This sends a strong message about the consequences of continued criminal or antisocial conduct.

The program will be intensive, and it will run in most cases for between 12 months and two years. People who complete the program successfully will have their original sentences of imprisonment replaced with a good behaviour order. People who do not complete the program will have their drug and alcohol treatment order cancelled and will have to serve the remainder of their sentence in custody.

The evidence is strong that if we provide the right support services to people with drug and alcohol problems at the right point in their contact with the judicial system, we can address these dependencies and, in turn, build more resilient families, people and communities.

While this legislation was being developed, the Minister for Health and Wellbeing and I had the privilege of joining Judge Roger Dive in the Parramatta Drug Court. We saw firsthand what a harm minimisation focus can achieve. We saw that, through building relationships and surrounding vulnerable people with support, new beginnings are possible and the root cause of offending can be addressed.

The statistics behind this model are compelling. A 2008 study of the New South Wales Drug Court found that people who completed the program were 37 per cent less likely to be re-convicted of an offence than people who never entered the program. A 2014 evaluation of the Dandenong program in Victoria showed that the


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