ACT Government to expand drug and alcohol treatment order eligibility


To support the rehabilitation of offenders with drug and alcohol dependency, the ACT Government has expanded eligibility for drug and alcohol treatment orders in the ACT Drug and Alcohol Court.

Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury has introduced a Bill to the ACT Legislative Assembly, proposing changes to the legislation governing the Court.

“The ACT Drug and Alcohol Court recognises that addiction is a health issue and works to address underlying causes of drug and alcohol-related crime by supporting offenders through rehabilitation.

“It helps offenders get their lives back on track, reducing crime and improving community safety,” Attorney-General Rattenbury said.

“The Sentencing (Drug and Alcohol Treatment Orders) Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 (the Bill) will allow more offenders with serious drug and alcohol problems to be diverted from custody and receive rehabilitative treatment and will improve the operation and administration of the Court.

“The Bill will allow people facing multiple shorter sentences the opportunity to access drug and alcohol treatment through the Drug and Alcohol Court, if the total term of their sentences amounts to one to four years’ imprisonment.

“The Bill will support the ability of the treatment team to manage and monitor participants’ progress under drug and alcohol treatment orders and will increase the flexibility of the Court to manage breaches of treatment orders, limiting the risk that a person might have their treatment orders cancelled due to minor non-compliance.”

“The Bill will also allow the Court to backdate treatment orders to account for time already served in custody, which will result in more fairness in the sentencing process.

“The Drug and Alcohol Court supports the Government’s commitment to reduce recidivism and build alternative ways to break the cycles of addiction, disadvantage and reoffending that can lead to crime, building safer and more connected communities.

“So far, 18 people have graduated from the Drug and Alcohol Court after successfully completing all stages of the program,” Attorney-General Rattenbury said.

The Government has invested a further $8.4 million in the 2023-24 Budget to continue and expand the Court to support a 20 per cent increase in placements, from 35 to 42 participants.

An independent evaluation of the program by the Australian National University found that it has reduced reoffending, improved the social and health outcomes of participants, and may have saved the community $14 million in avoided prison time, by diverting offenders towards treatment and away from prison.

A statutory review of the legislation governing the Court has been tabled in the Assembly. The review found that the Court is operating effectively.