Drug Treatment Courts to be expanded as offending rates fall

THE Government is to look at moving more people through the Drug Treatment Courts after a review of the system showed reduced rates of re-offending.

The details of the review will be published today by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern and one of the recommendations is that the scheme be extended to suitable cases before the Circuit Court, removing catchment area boundaries on a phased basis, and extending the scheme to the 16-18 age group.

The Drug Treatment Court is a specialised district court offering long-term court-monitored treatment to offenders with drug addictions as an alternative to a prison sentence. It sits twice a week in the Richmond Courthouse in Dublin and figures show that 37 people were referred to it last year, the lowest figure since the scheme began in 2001. Just 29 offenders, or 14% of the total number of people who have participated in the scheme, have completed all aspects of the programme, but the latest review shows while the numbers of drug users going through the DTC is low, it has had a significant effect on the behaviour of those utilising the programme, including those who drop out.

Analysis of offenders’ behaviour shows that, when 10 participants were in the programme for six months before and after entry, there was a 76% reduction in offending behaviour, compared with the offending rate before entry into the DTC.

Four participants were studied for 12 months before and after entry and there was a 63% fall in offences, albeit from just eight offences to three.

Over an 18-month period before and after entry into the DTC, in which 10 participants were studied, there was a 78% fall in offending behaviour, down from 113 committed before entry to the DTC to just 29 afterwards.

Property offences accounted for the majority of crimes committed, although again entry into the DTC seems to have reduced the level of property crime that is often linked with drug use. The review found outcomes for those participating in the DTC programmes seemed to be significantly better than those offenders placed on a Probation Bond.

In cases where offenders were imprisoned by the District Court, the vast majority of offences were property offences, but the review points out the DTC does not have access to residential facilities, which hinders success rates.

The DTC was first piloted back in 2001 and strict criteria must be met for people to be admitted, including that they have a drug dependency, have pleaded guilty or been found guilty of a non-violent criminal offence, and be willing to cooperate with supervision and avail of drug treatment. Since the scheme started, 174 of the 374 referrals have been deemed unsuitable.

The justice sector cost of the DTC last year fell to its lowest level since 2001, just €139,722, although the costs to City of Dublin VEC stood at €421,307 and the HSE cost was €89,644.



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