The Perth Drug Court Explained

Man being arrested in Perth WA for drug possession with hands behind his back


What is the Drug Court?

The Perth Drug Court deals with offenders who suffer from substance abuse issues. The aim of the drug court is to help offenders rehabilitate and reduce the likelihood of re-offending and or imprisonment. 

Specialist Drug Courts were first established in Australia in 1999. New South Wales was the first state to set up a drug court, but by the year 2000 they had been established in South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland too. In each jurisdiction they operate under legislation particular to the state or territory. But each drug court has the same aim -– to break the cycle of substance abuse and criminal offending, and in doing so, help addicts to turn their lives around and become productive members of society. 

The drug court aims to achieve this  by facilitating treatment as a key part of the penalty which meets the expectations of the community. 

By placing a firm focus on treatment, the drug court aims to:

  • Support participants in addressing their substance misuse and associated lifestyle and reduce re-offending; and
  • Reduce imprisonment of those with substance misuse issues by addressing problems that are central to their offending;


How does the Perth Drug Court work?

The Perth Drug Court operates from the Magistrates Court. It is led by a Magistrate who collaborates with a number of specialist teams including Court Assessment and Treatment Services (CATS) Community Corrections Officers as well as legal aid lawyers and addiction treatment agency staff and support officers.

The Perth Drug Court specifically deals with adult offenders. A very similar structure also exists within the Perth Children’s Court which deals with juvenile offenders who are struggling with substance abuse.

All offenders who apply to participate in the Drug Court regime are assessed by the CATS team for suitability. Those applicants who are successful are required to commit to all of their responsibilities as prescribed by the Perth Drug Court as well as take an active role in their treatment and recovery.

All offenders are case managed or ‘supervised’ for the duration of the program and are subject to bail conditions throughout the course of the program. Conditions might include regular testing for drugs and alcohol, the requirement to participate in rehabilitation treatments, curfew, residential conditions, as well as attending court on a regular basis for monitoring. Some conditions may be similar to those imposed in community-based sentencing.

While the drug court aims to help as many people as possible who are caught up in the cycle of serious drug addiction/substance dependency and criminal offending, offenders charged with violent, aggravated or reckless offences, or sexual offences, or the manufacture of drugs or drug trafficking may not be eligible for the drug court program.


Success of the Perth Drug Court

There are limited reviews of the operation of the Perth Drug Court, however the results appear to be positive. A review undertaken by the Department of the Attorney General in 2006 found that the Drug Court program had a positive effect in reducing the level of re-offending among individuals charged with a drug-related offence.

It reported that ‘The Drug Court was found to have a net reduction in recidivism of 17.0% over prison and 10.4% over community corrections… The net improvement also increased over time as Drug Court graduates were also less likely to reoffend over the longer term.’

The review also concluded that: ‘While requiring slightly more funding to operate on a per-head basis, the Drug Court would appear to quickly pay for itself through a combination of reduced offender management costs for recidivist offenders and greater community safety outcomes.’

There is a growing body of research which suggests that drug addiction and substance abuse should be treated as a health issue not a criminal justice issue, although that’s not to suggest that people who commit crimes while under the influence of drugs or other addictive substances should not be punished accordingly.

In countries where policies have been put in place to support the treatment of addiction in conjunction with imposition of penalties for criminal activity, there has been reasonable success. Not just in reducing criminal offending, but also in reducing drug abuse. 

Research suggests that people feel stigmatised by their drug use because it is treated more typically as a criminal issue, as opposed to health issue. This can put drug abusers off seeking treatment, which serves to perpetuate the behaviour and keep the law-breaking cycle alive.

Cases referred to the Perth Drug Court are assessed on their individual characteristics and circumstances. If you have been charged with a criminal offence and you also have an issue with substance abuse, it is important to discuss options with your criminal defence lawyer at the early stage of the criminal proceedings.  


Have You Been Charged with a Drug Offence?

If you are facing drug charges in WA, it is important to seek advice from a specialist criminal lawyer who can help you. Andrew Williams will make sure you understand the charges, inform you about the potential sentence you may face and guide you through the court process.

Contact the Andrew Williams Criminal Law Offices without delay on (08) 9278 2575.


PLEASE NOTE: The material in this blog post is for informational use only and should not be construed as legal advice. For answers to your questions regarding this or other topics, please contact a professional legal representative.

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