Queensland Drug and Alcohol Court
Drug courts treat offenders with a severe substance use disorder contributing to their offending behaviour. The Queensland Drug and Alcohol Court targets adult offenders to be supervised and undertake treatment to address their drug and/or alcohol dependency issues and criminal offending.
The Drug and Alcohol Court started in Brisbane on 29 January 2018.
The Penalties and Sentences (Drug and Alcohol Treatment Orders) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 was passed in October 2017. The amendment Bill enables a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order to be included into Queensland’s existing sentencing framework.
The Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee has released its report into its examination of the Penalties and Sentences (Drug and Alcohol Treatment Orders) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017.
The committee considered whether the Bill had sufficient regard to the rights and liberties of individuals, and to the institution of parliament.
The committee found diversionary programs provide a means of rehabilitation and are an important component of a properly functioning justice system. Read the full report.
Frequently asked questions
The Drug and Alcohol Court Queensland provides an intensive and targeted response to adult offenders with severe drug and alcohol use directly associated with their offending. Offenders are strictly monitored by the court; they are sentenced to undertake treatment to address their drug and alcohol dependencies and criminal thinking. The goal is to reduce future offending.
The court features:
- regular and random drug testing
- regular court appearances to ensure offenders stay on track
- incentives for offenders to continue to engage with treatment.
The court aims to improve community safety by rehabilitating offenders so that they can reintegrate back into the community as productive members of our society.
Research worldwide has shown that drug courts work when they are based on best-practice principles. Evaluations of the former Queensland drug court, as well as the New South Wales and Victorian drug courts, showed they lessened the likelihood of participants reoffending. Similar courts in New Zealand, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom found a reduction in drug use—as well as increased social stability, housing and employment—for offenders who complete the program.
The Queensland Government initiated the Drug and Specialist Courts Review to ensure the reinstated drug court was evidence-based and cost-effective, reflecting modern best-practice. The Review studied what is being done in Australia and around the world to address alcohol and other drug use associated with offending.
The Review also recommended improvements in Queensland’s court programs. Court Link responds to that recommendation, providing case management for offenders through a bail-based program. The Court Link team works alongside the Drug and Alcohol Court.
The Drug and Specialist Court Review found that court-based intervention programs can reduce drug-related offending in a cost-effective way. The Review supported the reinstatement of a drug court in Queensland. It recommended the court be widened to also include offenders with alcohol dependency.
The Drug and Specialist Court Review recommended that the Queensland Drug and Alcohol Court should only operate in one location and be expanded once the model has been evaluated and refined. Brisbane has been identified as the best location because of its availability of services and the high caseload of the Brisbane Magistrates Court. Any expansion to regional centres is not likely to take place until 2023, after the court has been evaluated.
Yes, Victoria and New South Wales both have drug courts. There are also drug (and alcohol) courts in New Zealand, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
A Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order is a prison sentence of up to four years wholly suspended while the offender completes a two-year treatment program. The treatment addresses substance use as well as offending behaviour.
There are strict eligibility requirements for an offender to be sentenced to a Treatment Order. An offender must:
- be an adult and plead guilty to charges at a Magistrates Court
- live in the Brisbane Magistrates Court district
- have a severe substance use disorder that contributed to their offending behaviour.
The Drug and Specialist Court Review recommended certain offences be exempt from the court. Offences heard in the District Court and the Supreme Court are ineligible as they would likely deal with more complicated and serious drug offences—such as aggravated supply of a dangerous drug and trafficking.
An offender is not eligible for a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order if they are:
- already serving a term of imprisonment
- subject to a parole order
- charged with a sexual assault offence.
A person has a severe substance use disorder if they are:
- taking a substance in larger amounts or for longer than you’re meant to
- wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to
- spending a lot of time getting, using or recovering from use of the substance
- have cravings and urges to use the substance
- not managing to do what you should at work or home because of substance use.
The Drug and Alcohol Court is located on level 4 of the Brisbane Magistrates Court. It has its own magistrate who heads up a multi-disciplinary team to monitor and support offenders while they complete their treatment. This team includes:
- an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Court Liaison Officer
- lawyers from Legal Aid Queensland to provide legal advice
- Corrective Services officers who supervise and monitor offenders
- Queensland Health clinicians to provide medical treatment
- Prosecutors from the Queensland Police Service
- Department of Justice and Attorney General court officers.
The Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order has strict conditions requiring offenders to regularly appear at court, be tested for drug and/or alcohol use, and do everything that the court says. There are swift consequences for breaches, including going to jail for short periods. Repeated breaches or stopping the Treatment Order means an offender would return to the Magistrates Court for sentencing.
The Drug and Alcohol Court Treatment Order may only be made after assessing an offender’s suitability. This assessment considers the seriousness of the offence and any risk of further domestic violence against a victim.
Yes, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Court Liaison officer is a full-time member of the Drug and Alcohol Court team. This team member will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and liaise with other court support services such as Murri Court.
- A Drug and Alcohol Court Referral Form 1 is completed and submitted.
- If eligible, a magistrate may refer an offender to the Drug and Alcohol Court .
- Drug and Alcohol Court staff determine eligibility. If eligible, the matter is adjourned while a suitability assessment is undertaken.
- The offender is sentenced to a Treatment Order and begins treatment. If the offender is not suitable, the court may sentence the offender to other intervention programs such as Court Link or Murri Court, or be referred back to the originating Magistrates Court.
- The offender successfully completes the Treatment Order, breaking the cycle of drug-related offending. They are engaged in treatment, education and employment; they rebuild family and community connections and maintain stable accommodation.
Offenders must live in the Brisbane Magistrates Court District boundary to be eligible for the Drug and Alcohol Court Queensland. This includes residential addresses in the postcodes4000 – 4018, 4025 – 4036, 4051 – 4077, 4078 (Forest Lake only), 4101 – 4113, 4115, 4116, 4117 (Karawatha only), 4120 – 4123, 4151 – 4156, 4169 – 4179.