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Alcohol & Other Drug Treatment Courts could change the game

Upcoming forum on how Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Courts (AODTCs) could change the game

A model created in the United States to deal specifically with drug and alcohol offending is set to be trialled in New Zealand from November 2012. An upcoming community forum will question whether the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Courts (AODTCs) programme has the potential to be a “game changer” in reducing reoffending amongst drug and alcohol offenders in New Zealand.

JustSpeak, a non-partisan network of young people who seek to encourage a new generation of debate around criminal justice issues, will hold its second forum in Auckland and examine the potential for these courts to provide a more treatment-focussed approach to the sentencing of drug and alcohol offenders. The programme will be modelled on similar courts in both the United States and Australia. In both countries the courts have been heralded a major success in the treatment of drug and alcohol offenders.

The forum will feature: District Court Judge Lisa Tremewan, one of the two judges who has set up the AODTCs programme at the Auckland and Waitakere District Courts; Matt Bird, Treatment Advocate, whose area of expertise is in long-term recovery programmes and who has done work with the New Zealand Drug Foundation; Joshua Walmsley, Team Leader at Te Ara Hou Residential Alcohol and Drug Service; and Ben Neho, a graduate of the Te Ara Hou programme who is now a peer support worker.

The central question of the evening is whether AODTCs have the potential to be a “game changer” here in New Zealand by reducing the rate of recidivism among drug and alcohol offenders. Judge Tremewan will provide an overview of AODTCs, followed by a panel of all four speakers. Each speaker will discuss their perspective on rehabilitative approaches to alcohol and drug offending, based on their own experiences and fields of expertise, followed by a discussion of what New Zealand-specific factors will need to be considered in ensuring the success of the courts.

Drugs and alcohol are related to the majority of crime in New Zealand.

Diane White, JustSpeak Auckland spokesperson, says: “This new model offers an exciting opportunity for New Zealand to reduce the high rates of reoffending among people serving sentences for drug and alcohol related offences. The model has proven a major success in both the United States and Australia; however, we are interested in how this model may work in a New Zealand-specific context, and the unique challenges and opportunities within that context.”

The forum will be held on Thursday 13th September from 6.15pm at Northey Lecture Theatre at the University of Auckland Law School. It is a free and open event.


JustSpeak was formed at the beginning of 2011 as the youth arm of Rethinking Crime and Punishment. The guiding ethos driving JustSpeak is that young people have much to offer to the national conversation on criminal justice. Among other things, young people bring an imaginative outlook, a feeling of urgency, and a sense of hope. Since forming, JustSpeak has made a number of contributions, including holding a series of monthly forums in both Wellington and Auckland. These forums aim to bring together young people from different backgrounds to educate and upskill members on issues of criminal justice. Topics have previously included Maori and the Criminal Justice System, Vulnerable Children, Drugs and the Criminal Justice System, Boot Camps, the Political Response to Criminal Justice Issues, and Media and the Criminal Justice System. JustSpeak launched in Auckland in August 2012 with a forum on youth offending, which attracted a large audience and significant media interest. For more information, visit www.justspeak.org.nz.


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