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 (QDAC) targets adult offenders to be supervised and undertake treatment to address their drug and/or alcohol dependency issues and criminal offending.
For more information about the Drug and Alcohol Court program, please access the QDAC Information Handbook.
The legislative framework supporting QDAC is contained in Part 8A of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld) and integrates the principles of a drug court program into the existing sentencing framework for Queensland.
The making of a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order (Treatment Order) is provided for at s151C of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 in order to facilitate the rehabilitation of participants by:
- providing a judicially supervised, therapeutically oriented, integrated treatment regime
- reducing the participant’s severe substance use disorder
- reducing the level of criminal activity associated with the disorder
- assisting the participants’ integration into the community.
A therapeutic jurisprudence approach to justice – a participant’s journey through Queensland Drug and Alcohol Court
To follow the possible pathways of a person through the Queensland Drug and Alcohol Court, access the interactive video on the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council website.
Frequently asked questions
QDAC provides an intensive and targeted response to adult offenders with severe drug and/or 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/or alcohol dependencies and criminal thinking. The goal is to reduce an offender’s severe substance use disorder and 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 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 QDAC 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 of QDAC will be considered post completion of the evaluation.
Yes, the Northern Territory is the only jurisdiction without a drug court in operation. 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 or intend to 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 (excluding a suspended sentence or Intensive Correction Order)
- subject to a parole order or cancelled parole order in Queensland or order similar in another State
- 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.
QDAC 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:
- lawyers from Legal Aid Queensland to provide legal advice
- Corrective Services officers who supervise and monitor offenders
- Queensland Health clinicians to provide alcohol and other drug treatment
- Prosecutors from the Queensland Police Service
- Department of Justice and Attorney General court officers
- a Cultural Liaison Officer who supports participants who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
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 is likely to have their Treatment Order revoked and be re-sentenced for their original offences.
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 violence including domestic violence against a victim.
Yes, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Liaison Officer is a full-time member of the QDAC team. This team member will support Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, and liaise with other support services to assist offenders to meet the requirements of their Treatment Order.
- Upon completion of the Drug and Alcohol Court Referral Form 1, an eligibility mention date is to be obtained from the court clerk
- The Form 1 is submitted to the court.
- If eligible, a magistrate may refer an offender to the Drug and Alcohol Court (PDF, 245.4 KB).
- At the eligibility mention, the QDAC Magistrate will determine eligibility based on information provided by the QDAC team. If eligible, the matter is adjourned while a suitability assessment is undertaken.
- If determined suitable by the QDAC Magistrate, the offender is sentenced to a Treatment Order and begins treatment. If the offender is not suitable, the court may refer the offender to other court based programs such as Court Link or Murri Court, sentence the offender in accordance with law, or refer the offender 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 or intend to live in the Brisbane Magistrates Court District boundary to be eligible for a Treatment Order. This includes residential addresses in the postcodes 4000 – 4018, 4025 – 4036, 4051 – 4077, 4078 (Forest Lake only), 4101 – 4113, 4115, 4116, 4117 (Karawatha only), 4120 – 4123, 4151 – 4156, 4169 – 4179.
Once the participant is on the Treatment Order, if the court approves, the participant may reside outside of this catchment.