BRISBANE’S DRUG & ALCOHOL COURT

Drug related offending has become increasingly prevalent in recent times. In 2017-18 illicit drug offences were the most common offence type totalling 78,167 offenders nationally[1].

Drug offences have been flooding the Magistrate and District Courts, leading to increased prison populations and a revolving door of recidivism.

Given this current national drug crisis, the court system has been required to adapt to the new challenges it faces by the overwhelmingly large amount of drug offences being heard each day.

To address these needs within the community, the government re-implemented the Drug and Alcohol Court in Brisbane in January 2018 to alleviate the high caseload pressure of the Brisbane Magistrates Court.

The Drug and Alcohol Court is now legislated under the Penalties and Sentences (Drug and Alcohol Treatment Orders) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017[2] (the Act) that was passed on October 2017. The Act[3] now enables a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order to be included under Queensland’s sentencing regime.

Drug and Alcohol Court was trialled in Queensland in 2013, however was abolished by the Liberal National party to save costs. It was estimated that they saved $35.7 million dollars over a four-year period by scrapping the Queensland Drug and Alcohol Court and Murri Court. Since then both courts have re-established[4].

Magistrates refer eligible members of the community to the Drug and Alcohol Court where they are subject to Treatment Order requirements. This was implemented after a Drug and Specialist Court Review identified it to be “an evidence-based and cost-effective approach reflecting modern best-practice[5]”,

As Brisbane’s Drug and Alcohol Court is relatively new, it will take several years to clearly ascertain if there is a long term reduction in reoffending rates and drug offending trends processing through the court system.

The flow on effects of its implementation however can largely and quickly assist the wider community with crowding issues that our Queensland prisons are facing. Quantitative studies show a consistent trend with the number of people being held in custody on the rise[6]. This leads to less effective outcomes and lower chances of rehabilitation for the prisoners.

By sentencing eligible individuals to a Drug and Alcohol Court Treatment Order, it means they are not entering the prison system but are given an opportunity to rehabilitate in an evidence-based, intervention program that has been designed to reduce recidivism.

To be eligible for Drug and Alcohol Court an offender must be an adult, plead guilty to charges at a Magistrates court, live within the Brisbane district and have a substantial substance abuse issue. The drug and alcohol court staff complete a suitability assessment while the matter is adjourned if they are deemed eligible[7]. The treatment order can then begin which assists the individuals with rehabilitation, employment, mental health etc. to ultimately break the cycle of drug-related offending. The drug and alcohol court takes a holistic approach to rehabilitation focusing on several aspects of the person’s life.

The drug and alcohol epidemic is prevalent nationally, leading to other states enforcing more specific sentencing options to address this issue. Victoria and New South Wales have also included drug and alcohol courts into their sentencing systems.

The Brisbane Drug and Alcohol Court is run by a team of employees who manage the offenders while on their treatment orders. A number of staff are employed by Queensland Corrective Services who supervise them during this period. The team also includes legal representatives, Prosecutors and Department of Justice and Attorney General court officers. This multi-disciplinary team supports offenders once again taking a holistic approach to more than one aspect of their lives.

Queensland’s Drug and Alcohol Court is a space to watch with the ever-growing numbers of drug related offending. Long term, this court has the ability to have serious effects on the community and Queensland as a whole given its powers under the Act[8].

Creevey Russell Lawyers are experts in the area of crime and misconduct. With our dedicated team of experienced lawyers, we provide around the clock legal services for any criminal related matters. We represent clients in all jurisdictions from individuals, to companies and businesses.

Having an office in Brisbane Central allows our lawyers to access and utilise Brisbane’s Drug and Alcohol Court. Our lawyers have expert knowledge and extensive experience with regards to drug and alcohol related offending. For further information on the services provided by Creevey Russell Lawyers, please visit our website at www.creeveyrussell.com.au.

For more information regarding Brisbane’s Drug and Alcohol Court, visit https://www.courts.qld.gov.au/courts/drug-court.

[1] “4519.0 – Recorded Crime – Offenders, 2017-18”, Abs.Gov.Au (Webpage, 2019) <https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/by%20Subject/4519.0~2017-18~Main%20Features~Offenders,%20Australia~3>.

[2] Penalties and Sentences (Drug and Alcohol Treatment Orders) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Felicity Caldwell, “Four Years After It Was Scrapped, Drug Court Will Return To Queensland”, Brisbane Times (Webpage, 2019) <https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/queensland/four-years-after-it-was-scrapped-drug-court-will-return-to-queensland-20171024-p4ywmk.html>.

[5] Queensland Drug And Alcohol Court”, Courts.Qld.Gov.Au (Webpage, 2019) <https://www.courts.qld.gov.au/courts/drug-court>.

[6] Queensland Government, Annual Report 2017-2018 (Queensland Corrective Services, 2018) https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/dataset/e18fd278-6c07-4c63-bb0d-258948ccca71/resource/0397087a-5ea9-4c2e-82a1-625c137d3284/download/qcs-annual-report-2017-181.pdf 13.

[7] Queensland Drug And Alcohol Court”, Courts.Qld.Gov.Au (Webpage, 2019) <https://www.courts.qld.gov.au/courts/drug-court>.

[8] Penalties and Sentences (Drug and Alcohol Treatment Orders) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017.

Isabella King
Paralegal
Ph:   07 4617 8777
Email: