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Drug Diversion Programs in the ACT

Drug Diversion Programs in the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) are aimed at diverting people who have been arrested for and/or charged with alcohol or drug-related offences out of the court system and into the health system.

It is a partnership between ACT Health, ACT Policing, the courts, and non-government agencies which aims to meet the principles of the National Drug Strategy.

The police program is meant primarily for offenders who have had no previous involvement with the courts. Rather than charge them, Police have the option to divert them to the health sector.

The Court Alcohol and Drug Assessment Service (CADAS) is used in the Magistrates, Children’s and Supreme Courts for offenders who are charged with an alcohol and/or drug-related offence. Referral to the service can form a condition of bail, or part of a person’s sentence. This aspect of the drug diversion programs in the ACT is governed by the Sentencing Act 2005.

Drug Diversion Programs in the ACT

Police Early Diversion Program

The ACT Policing Early Diversion Program helps offenders who want to deal with their drug problems. It is for those who have been caught by the Police with a small amount of illicit drugs (or the illicit possession of other drugs).

If ACT Policing decide that a person is eligible for the program, they will refer them to the Assessment and Coordination Team with the ACT Health Alcohol and Drug Program. The Team will assess the person for treatment, which might involve education, counselling, assistance through withdrawal, pharmacotherapy, and/or residential rehabilitation.

The person’s progress is monitored and the AFP receives regular reports on whether they are complying with the program or not. If they are not complying, ACT Policing will decide what action should be taken (if any).

Police Early Diversion Program Criteria

To be eligible to take part in the ACT Policing Early Diversion Program, a person must have been apprehended for an offence under the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989 (such as possessing an illicit drug, or illicitly possessing a drug). They must also admit to the offence and agree to take part in the diversion program.

Diversion is not available if a violent crime has been committed. When considering referring a person through the drug diversion programs in the ACT, police must consider the public interest as well as the interests of the person involved and their immediate family.

Court Alcohol and Drug Assessment Service (CADAS)

If a person is charged with an alcohol or drug-related offence in the Magistrates, Children’s or Supreme Court, they can be referred to CADAS, either before they are sentenced, or as part of their sentence.

If they don’t comply with an order to submit for assessment, undergo treatment, or just for monitoring or referral, the court must not impose a more severe sentence than it would have had the offender not been referred.

Offenders can only be referred by the Magistrate or Judge, but any person with an interest in the case can ask for the referral. It is a free service.

CADAS Assessment and treatment

The court may order that the person is assessed by CADAS and that they comply with any consequent treatment plan or monitoring. An order cannot be made without the offender’s consent.

CADAS will conduct an assessment and recommend an appropriate treatment plan. They will monitor the person’s treatment outcomes and attendance, and review the treatment plan regularly for the duration of the Court proceedings and again for the offender’s final Orders and sentence.

If the referral was a condition of bail or of a good behaviour bond, CADAS will report the person’s compliance to the Court.

Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Liaison Officer

The Drug Diversion Programs in the ACT employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Liaison Officers to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) clients engaged with the programs.

The primary tasks of the ATSI Liaison Officers are to:

  • provide support to and case-manage ATSI clients referred to the Drug Diversion Programs in the ACT
  • work with ATSI clients facing the Gambarri Court
  • assist clients with their referrals to other alcohol or drug services
  • advocate on behalf of clients to develop appropriate treatment plans
  • liaise with clients’ families and other treating professionals, and
  • conduct development activities and community education in the delivery of health promotion services.

This article reflects the state of the law as at 5 February 2016. It is intended to be of a general nature only and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal assistance, please telephone 1300 636 846 or request a consultation at

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