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The DPP hold the keys to the Drug Court

On 10 August 2017 the Hon Yvette D’Ath MP introduced the Penalties and Sentences (Drug and Alcohol Treatment Orders) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 into the Queensland Parliament.

The object of the legislation is to establish a specialist Drug Court in Queensland with power to sentence offenders to community based drug and alcohol Treatment Orders, where they may have otherwise previously been imprisoned.
A treatment order comprises of two parts - a custodial part of a term of imprisonment of up to four years which is suspended for a designated period of up to five years (i.e. the operational period); and a rehabilitation part of at least two years that requires compliance with core conditions and completion of a treatment program.

The Court may only make a treatment order where:

• An offender has a severe substance use disorder and the disorder has contributed to the commission of an offence; and

• the offender (residing in the district of a prescribed court) has pleaded guilty to an offence that can be dealt with by the court, and agrees to the making of the treatment order; and

• the prescribed court has received a suitability assessment report, considers a treatment order appropriate and otherwise would have sentenced the offender to a term of imprisonment; and

• the court must not make a treatment order if it is satisfied that the offender would pose an unacceptable risk to the safety and welfare of community members.

The specialist Drug Court sits within the framework of the Magistrates Court, and the sentencing jurisdiction has been extended to 4 years imprisonment.

The bill also aims to amend the Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Q) to provide more offences that may be dealt with summarily if treatment ordesr are sought. The amendments provide that certain offences such as supplying a dangerous drug, producing a dangerous drug and possessing dangerous drugs (where the maximum is 20 years) may be dealt with summarily in the Drug Court with the Prosecution’s consent.

The court however does not have jurisdiction to deal with offences where the DPP allege the offending conduct is for a commercial purpose, or the DPP does not accept the defendant was a drug dependent person.

It appears the specialist Drug Court will divert a large numbers of drug sentences out of the higher courts to be dealt with summarily, however, this is contingent on the DPP’s approach to the Court, and whether they welcome offenders or shut them out.

Tom Gardiner

Solicitor

Fisher Dore


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