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Drug Court of NSW

Drug Court is a specialist court that sits in Parramatta and Toronto, in New South Wales, Australia.The Drug Court’s object is to reduce drug-related criminal activity by diverting drug- dependent offenders to rehabilitation programs. Offenders are referred to the Drug Court by Local Court and the District Courts.

The Drug Court of NSW operates according to its governing legislation, the Drug Court Act 1998 and the Drug Court Regulation 2005 as well as precedents.

There are presently three separate types of drug court in NSW:

  • the Drug Court at Parramatta and the Central Coast
  • the Youth Drug and Alcohol Court
  • the Local Court MERIT scheme.

To be eligible to be dealt with by the Drug Court, an offender must:

  • be apparently dependent on a prohibited drug (not alcohol)
  • plead guilty, and
  • have been charged with an offence which is ‘highly likely’ in the circumstances (for example, the offender’s prior record) to result in their imprisonment.

A person is not eligible for sentencing by the Drug Court if they are charged with:

  • an indictable offence under the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act which cannot be dealt with summarily (for example, supply of a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug), or
  • an offence involving ‘violent conduct’ or sexual assault. 

A local or district court can, instead of imposing a punishment, require an offender to participate in an ongoing rehabilitation program or treatment programs, under the supervision of a Drug Court. The treatment options offered by the Drug Court include abstinence, methadone and buprenorphine programs conducted in either the community or residential rehabilitation settings.

Usually, offenders under the supervision of the drug court enter the assessment and detoxification stage before he undergoes a specific treatment plan based on the findings of the assessment. The offender, in addition to the conditions for eligibility above, must be willing to participate. He must agree to the program of treatment and conditions proposed by the court. The conditions of a person’s program can be varied by the court.

Throughout the duration of the program, the drug court closely monitors all participants and order reports to be submitted by any one of the prosecutors, nurse consultants, judge, program coordinators. 

As well as determining a program for the offender, the Drug Court must also impose a penalty for the offence, but it immediately suspends the sentence. If the offender satisfactorily completes the program, that will be taken into account in determining the final sentence, such as a good behaviour bond. The final sentence cannot be higher than the original suspended sentence.

A Youth Drug and Alcohol Court modelled on the Drug Court has been established in some parts of Sydney. This court operates from some Children’s Courts in western, central and eastern Sydney.

The Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) Program is similar to the Drug Court initiative but, unlike the Drug Court, it is a voluntary pre-plea scheme. Its aim is to treat adult offenders who have an admitted illicit drug use problem, with the view to reducing drug related crime.

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Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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