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Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court (AODT) pilot launch

Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Justice

1 November 2012

Speech notes to Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court (AODT) pilot launch

Auckland District Court, 65-69 Albert Street, Auckland Central

Good morning and welcome to the official launch of New Zealand’s first Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court pilot.

It’s great to be here to mark the start of this exciting new initiative.

The AODT Court will have its first sitting in the Waitakere and Auckland District Courts next week.

I would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the judiciary and the Ministry of Justice for their commitment to getting this pilot off the ground.

The AODT Court supports the Government’s plan to reduce crime and reoffending.

We’re committed to driving a 15 per cent reduction in crime over the next five years.

From 2017, we will see 45,000 fewer crimes committed each year, 7,500 fewer violent crimes, 600 fewer 14 to 16 year olds appearing in court, 600 fewer prisoners and 4,000 fewer community-sentenced offenders.

More importantly we will see 18,500 fewer victims of crime each year.

We know that in order to reduce crime, we must not only be ‘tough on crime’, we also need to be ‘smart on crime’.

Being smart means we must first understand and address the factors that drive crime.

In 2009 we brought experts together to look at the underlying causes of crime. That meeting helped shape the Government’s new approach to reducing crime, reoffending and victimisation.

Crime is not simply a Justice issue – it requires a coordinated approach across Government agencies and within communities.

In November 2009, Cabinet agreed that ‘Addressing the Drivers of Crime’ would become an across-Government priority.

The AODT Court is a great example of agencies working together to address the drivers of crime.

I would like to thank all the agencies that have worked together to progress the new Court – the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health, Department of Corrections and the New Zealand Police.

As I’m sure most of you are aware, Alcohol and drug abuse is one of the principal drivers of crime.

More than 65 per cent of sentenced prisoners in New Zealand identify as having some sort of on-going alcohol or drug related issue.

More than 50 per cent of crime is committed by people under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

Yet substance abuse has consequences far beyond what we see in our courts.

It contributes to accidents, family violence and child abuse, public disorder, motor vehicle crashes, illness and poor productivity.

It’s important offenders are held to account for their crimes but we also need to confront the catalyst that caused the crime.

By taking into account the factors that motivated the offending in the first place, we can prevent people from embarking on a life of crime.

Alcohol and drug treatment is also cost effective.

For every dollar spent on addiction treatment of offenders, there is a four to seven dollar drop in costs associated with alcohol and drug-related crime.

We’ve known about the benefits of rehabilitation programmes for some time – however rehab has traditionally been offered to offenders once they are already in prison.

Treating people before they are sentenced is a new way to approach dependency. It will allow us to help people overcome their addition problems while still holding them to account for their actions.

The AODT Court will address both the substance abuse that drove the offending, and the offending itself.

If selected, participants will enter into an intensive addiction treatment programme, which will be tailored to their needs.

The programme will focus not only on abstinence from drugs and alcohol – it will help offenders develop positive life skills that will help them stay away from crime and instead make positive contribution to their community.

Make no mistake; participating in the AODT Court is not an easy option for offenders.

They will undergo intensive treatment and be closely supervised for the duration of the programme, which will be around 12 to 18 months.

And participants will be drug-tested twice a week to ensure they are taking it seriously.

This is not an alternative to prison. Defendants will still be sentenced for their crimes once they have completed treatment but their success can be taken into account at sentencing.

Last month I visited the United States to see how their drug courts work. Drug courts have been operating in America for more than 20 years and there are now more than 2500 across the country.

In San Francisco and in New York City I was able to sit in with the judge to see the Courts in action. These Drug Courts are considered world leaders with San Francisco being the first jurisdiction to introduce them.

The San Francisco Court runs in a similar way to how we plan to run the Court here.

All parties­ – the prosecution, defence, treatment providers and the Judge – will meet before the offender appears in Court to discuss the participant’s progress and any potential problem areas.

I learnt a great deal about how various agencies can work together and share information to ensure the participant gets the support and discipline they need.

The Drug Courts in the US have generally added value to their court system, with offenders less likely to reoffend or use substances on release.

I expect this Court will add the same value for New Zealand.

I’d like to thank you all for coming today and for your hard work and support to make this court pilot a reality.

It’s my pleasure invite Chief District Court Judge Doogue to receive this plaque commemorating the official opening of the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court.


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