In acknowledging the link between addiction and the commission of criminal offences, the Queensland government has reinstated the Drug Court in Queensland. This court recognises that rehabilitation is often the best way of achieving the objective of keeping the community safe from recidivist offenders, who might otherwise be unable to give up their drug and/or alcohol addiction.
On 24 October, the Queensland parliament passed the Penalties and Sentences (Drug and Alcohol Treatment Orders) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. This bill is not only re-established the previous regime but expands it to include alcohol as a relevant drug.
In her August 10 Media Release, the Attorney General said that the bill introduces “a new sentencing option that allows a court to place a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order on those whose offending is directly linked to their severe drug or alcohol use, which will help put them back on the right path in life, away from re-offending in the long term.”
The primary policy objective of the legislation is to insert a new sentencing option into the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 to respond to those offenders whose offending is linked to their severe drug or alcohol use.
The legislation follows 2016, Drug and Specialist Courts Review. The drug court is aimed at addressing severe substance abuse. The Review’s Final Report was tabled in the Queensland Legislative Assembly on 13 June 2017 and included 39 key recommendations.
Mrs D’Ath in her 24 October media release said the new Drug and Alcohol Court pilot in Brisbane should be operational in November.
Creation of a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order
The Bill will insert a new part 8A into the Penalties and Sentences Act to provide for the establishment, imposition and management of a new sentencing order in Queensland called a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order (treatment order).
New part 8A of the Penalties and Sentences Act will provide for the making of a treatment order. The order is designed to facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders by providing judicial supervision combined with therapeutic treatment, to reduce the offender’s substance use. The previous drug court demonstrated that this regime reduced the level of criminal activity associated with addiction.
Eligibility for a drug court treatment order
A treatment order may only be made for an offender if the offender has a severe substance use disorder and the disorder has contributed to the commission of an offence.
Severe substance use disorder
“Severe substance use disorder” is defined as a disorder prescribed by Regulation, or if not prescribed, as a substance use disorder estimated to be severe under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition, as published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013.
This ensures that the legislation will be able to adapt to any developments in the science surrounding the recognition and classification of disorders associated with the use of drugs or alcohol.
Types of offences
An offender may proceed through the drug court in respect of either:
- a summary offence; or
- an indictable offence, that is dealt with summarily.
Offences involving violence may be subject to a drug court treatment order, however, as the person will be released back into the community as part of the sentence, the court must not make a treatment order if it is satisfied that the offender would pose an unacceptable risk to the safety and welfare of community members.
- sexual assault offences,
- offenders who are subject to a parole order; or
- offenders who are serving a term of imprisonment
Balance of treatment order
A drug court treatment order comprises of two parts:
Custodial part – A term of imprisonment of up to four years which is suspended for a designated period of up to five years;
Rehabilitation part – A period of at least two years that requires compliance with core conditions including:
- not commit another offence,
- appear before the court as and when directed;
- report any change in residence;
- report any change in employment;
- report to a review team member or an authorised corrective services officer as required; and
- to comply with every reasonable direction given by the court, a review team member, or an authorised corrective services officer.
Consequence of non-compliance with treatment order
The court must have regard to a number of considerations, including:
- the extent of the offender’s general compliance,
- the nature and seriousness of the non-compliance; and
- any other consideration that would make the particular order unjust in the circumstances.
Where the court is satisfied that the offender has demonstrated non-compliance with the rehabilitation part of the treatment order the court may:
- impose further conditions to achieve the purpose of the treatment order;
- require the offender to perform community service; order the person serve a period of the suspended sentence of up to seven days; or
- revoke the rehabilitation part of the treatment order and order that the offender serve all or part of the suspended sentence.
Recognition of compliance with a treatment order
The court may cancel either the whole or part of a rehabilitation part of the treatment order if it considers that the offender has complied or substantially complied with the treatment program and that continuation of the rehabilitation part is not necessary to achieve the purpose of the treatment order.
The court may amend the rehabilitation part by amending the conditions of the treatment order, including amending the type or frequency of alcohol or drug testing.
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