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Loss of SMART courts concerns Northern Territory Chief Magistrate

Date posted: 3 July 2013

The Northern Territory Chief Magistrate says the elimination of 'SMART courts' for substance use related crimes, will see recidivism rise in the Territory, and will not be fairly substituted by the Government's new mandatory rehabilitation scheme.

The Government's mandatory rehabilitation bill has passed and soon hundreds of people who are found to be drunk in public more than three times within two months could be forced into rehabilitation for 12 weeks.

The SMART (Substance Misuse Assessment and Referral for Treatment) court has been withdrawn after only 18 months of operation.

‘I was surprised it was abolished because the pattern is, across the whole of the world, these courts are increasing because they work, Chief Magistrate Hilary Hannam told ABC Local Radio.

Ms Hannam said she expressed her concerns to Northern Territory Attorney-General John Elferink, who has been opposed to the SMART court system, but has not had a response.

SMART courts were for people who, Ms Hannam says, were at risk of going into custody. With SMART courts, there was an option of referring offenders to services for substance abuse rehabilitation.

‘If you take people out of the cycle of offending and going to jail, and you address their substance issues as to why they are offending in the first place, you make them productive members of the community who don't go back to jail,' she said. ‘It was a program that used the carrot and the stick - if you completed the program you got all sorts of benefits for your life and you didn't go to jail, but if you didn't do it, you had to go to jail...but it wasn't mandatory.'

Now leaving her position as Chief Magistrate to move into the Federal Family Court as a judge, Ms Hannam feels she is leaving the Territory with no system to deal appropriately with people who come through the courts with substance abuse problems.

Source: Claire Rawlinson and ABC News


Last updated: 10 July 2013
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Australia's National Research Centre on AOD Workforce Development National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre National Drug Research Institute