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NSW Attorney General Michael Daley and NSW Minister for Health Ryan Park have confirmed the NSW Drug Court in Sydney’s CBD is expanding from one day per week to full-time.

Court’s sittings will increase to three days per week from 20 September 2023, and moving full-time in the first quarter of 2024.

The Drug Court’s program is an alternative to a custodial sentence for eligible drug dependent and non-violent adult offenders. The Court’s holistic approach to correction prioritises treatment and rehabilitation over full-time imprisonment.

“What makes the Drug Court program unique and effective is that it gives participants access to a range of health services rather than criminal sanctions, which can help to improve their physical and mental health, reduce their drug use and increase their social wellbeing”, Park said.

With this expansion, the Court expects to increase the number of participants in the CBD from 40 to 160 per year.

Operating since 1999 in Parramatta, Toronto, Sydney CBD, and Dubbo, the Drug Court’s program provides evidence-based treatment to address drug use and reduce offending behaviours.

The Court offers counselling and case-management, careful supervision of its participants, and assistance with housing, education, child-care skills and readiness for employment.

“The NSW Drug Court is an innovative and effective program that can change the course of a participant’s life for the better by treating the underlying causes of their criminal offending,” Daley said.

“We want to ensure people have access to the support they need to successfully address their drug dependency and keep them out of prison, where appropriate.”

Two evaluations from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) found that the Drug Court is more cost-effective than prison in reducing the rate of reoffending among offenders.

“The Drug Court is an excellent example of how addressing drug dependency as a health issue can make a real difference to a person’s life and help them to lead a life free from drugs and ongoing contact with the criminal justice system”, Park concluded.

The President of the Law Society of NSW Cassandra Banks welcomed to increase Drug Court operations at the Downing Centre Court and called for the Government to consider similar expansions in other parts of the state, including Parramatta, Dubbo, and in the Hunter.

“As a regional legal practitioner, I’ve seen the damage drug dependency can cause to individuals and the community. Failure to address drug use as an underlying cause of offending can entrench health problems, harm family relationships and prevent those affected from finding or keeping a job. That’s why one of my priorities for this year is to advocate for greater access to diversion from the criminal justice system for vulnerable cohorts.”, Banks said.