IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Drug Treatment Court to be Expanded

24th May 2010

The Government is seeking to expand the numbers being processed through the Drug Treatment Court in light of a review which shows that it has so far reduced reoffending rates.

The Drug Treatment Court was established in 2001 as a response to rising levels of drug use and drug-related crime in the 1990s; despite early positive reviews, concerns have persisted surrounding the low number of referrals to the court. While the court was given permanency in 2006, the Minister decided that it would not be extended until an up-to-date review of its efficiency had been carried out. The current report provides positive insights into the successes of the court, and provides a sound basis for its expansion.

The court diverts offenders from custodial sentences, and uses a holistic approach to provide long-term services and support relating to health, educational and training needs as well as counselling and the structured use of probation appointments.

The review recommends that the court be extended to suitable cases before the Circuit Court rather than restricting the scheme to the District Court. Also recommended in the report are the phased removal of geographical restrictions for potential participants and the lowering of the minimum age of participants.  The review found that despite low referral numbers, the scheme had very promising results in terms of changing an offender’s behaviour.

The scheme has been guaranteed for another two years, during which time a review will assess whether the court is doing enough to increase referral numbers.

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