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Connolly, Johnny (2010) Drug Treatment Court to continue operating. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 35, Autumn 2010, p. 23.

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In May 2010, the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern TD, published a review by his department of the Drug Treatment Court (DTC) which has been operating in Dublin since 2001.1  

According to the department’s press release:2 ’Participants who engage with the programme have reduced rates of recidivism and improved health, education and social skills, which impact positively on the participants and the community.  However, the review also confirmed that the DTC, as currently operating, is not dealing with sufficient numbers of participants and programme completion rates are very low.’  
 
The press release quotes Minister Ahern: ‘Drug treatment courts can make an important contribution as a restorative justice measure but international studies also indicate they need to evolve and develop on an ongoing basis. This review stems from my concern about the very low throughput of participants in the DTC programme, despite the dedicated team attached to the Court and considerable goodwill on the part of all the agencies involved. I am pleased therefore that the report has identified a number of recommendations which should lead to a marked improvement in the programme's throughput and effectiveness.’
 
The review sought to ascertain why so few people were going through the DTC, how throughput could be increased and whether further expansion was desirable given poor results thus far. It identified the following costs and outcomes:
  • Average annual justice sector cost for the years 2001–2009 was €300,000.
  •  A total of 374 people were referred in the nine-year period, of whom 174 were deemed unsuitable (90% of whom were outside the DTC catchment area).
  • Twenty-nine people have graduated from the programme (14% of 200).
  •  Involvement in the court led to significant reduction in offending.
  •   Estimated weekly cost of DTC per offender in 2008 was €320.
  •   Weekly cost of a prison space in 2008 was €1,783.

The press release continues: ‘The review identifies particular issues to be addressed in terms of the management and operation of the DTC which, when implemented will, it concludes, enable the DTC to fulfil its potential in terms of the numbers participating in the programme and increasing the numbers who successfully complete it.  The review recommends that, having implemented the recommendations, the DTC should continue its operations for a further two years with an interim assessment to consider if the improvements are being achieved.’ The review identified the following reasons for the low number of referrals to the DTC:

  • Eligibility criteria exclude offenders aged under 18, those from outside the defined catchment area, and those whose offences involve violence.
  •  Offenders can only be referred to the DTC when they have pleaded guilty and/or have been convicted of certain offences where a prison sentence is likely.
  • Judges/solicitors are unaware of the DTC as an option.
  • There is a lack of management support and resources. 
The press release concludes: ‘The DTC operates on a multi-agency basis and all the agencies involved have confirmed their continued commitment to support the work of the Court. The Courts Service has agreed that the administration of the project will now be led by the Chief Clerk of the Dublin Circuit and District Courts, supported by a designated Deputy Chief Clerk who will be appointed shortly. The review also recommends the establishment of an Advisory Committee to oversee the project. This will be chaired by the Courts Service and made up of senior staff members of the Garda Síochána, the Health Service Executive, the Probation Service andthe City of Dublin Vocational Educational Committee, and will consider the entry requirements to the programme, expectations of participants and measures of success and how the numbers of participants in the programme can be increased quickly. The Committee will also look at the questions of research into the work and effectiveness of the DTC process and examine how third-level institutions might assist the Court in this work.’
 
1. Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (2010) Review of the drug treatment court. Dublin: Stationery Office. Available at  https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/13113/
2. Ahern D (2010) Ahern publishes review of Dublin's Drug Treatment Court. Press release issued by Department of Justice and Law Reform, 24 May 2010. Available at www.justice.ie
Item Type
Article
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
Issue Title
Issue 35, Autumn 2010
Date
2010
Page Range
p. 23
Publisher
Health Research Board
Volume
Issue 35, Autumn 2010
EndNote
Accession Number
HRB (Available)
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