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Court Programs in South Australia

Court Programs in South Australia target behavioural issues of offenders or problems with substance abuse in an effort to reduce the risk of reoffending.

There are currently four Intervention Programs operating in the South Australian Magistrates’ Court:

  • Magistrates’ Court Diversion Program
  • Treatment Intervention Court Program
  • Nunga Court Treatment Program
  • Abuse Prevention Program.


Court Programs South Australia

Definition and aims of court programs in South Australia

The definition of a court or intervention program is found in both the Bail Act 1985 and the Criminal Law (Sentencing Act) 1988. It is described as a program that provides one or more supervised treatments, rehabilitation, behaviour management, or access to support services.

The aim of court programs in South Australia is to address the causes of crime before sentencing so that the likelihood of re-offending is reduced. Successful participation in the programs is taken into account in sentencing, but a failure to successfully complete the program is not.

Court programs in South Australia operate in specialist courts, with Magistrates assigned to each court so they can follow the progress of participants through the program.

Magistrates’ Court Diversion Program – Overview and Eligibility

This court program runs in several South Australian Magistrates’ Courts and gives adult defendants an opportunity to address mental health issues and / or disability needs as well as offending behaviours. It aims to stop future offending by providing early assessment and interventions to address mental health needs.

There must be a connection between the defendant’s mental impairment and the offending behaviour and the defendant must plead guilty to serious offences. Mental impairment includes:

  • personality disorders
  • mental illness
  • an intellectual disability
  • an acquired brain injury, or
  • a neurological disorder.

Magistrates’ Court Diversion Program – Process

If accepted into the court program (following an eligibility assessment), the hearing is adjourned for about 6 months. Defendants are linked to services in the community and their progress is monitored.

The Magistrate reviews their compliance every 2 months and will reinforce and reward if the treatment regimens and lifestyle changes are successful. If not, the Magistrate will take alternative action. Failing to complete the program, or a failure to make sufficient progress, will not be considered at sentencing.

At the end of the program, the Magistrate may:

  • dismiss the matter
  • convict without penalty, or
  • impose a fine or bond.

Treatment Intervention Program – Overview and Eligibility

This court program runs for up to 6 months and is for adult defendants with mental impairment and / or substance dependence who have been charged with a summary or minor indictable offence.

It aims to:

  • reduce re-offending
  • improve mental and physical health and social functioning, and
  • stop or reduce drug use.

To be eligible a defendant must have been charged with an offence related to their drug use (but not necessarily a drug offence) and / or their mental impairment.

Mental impairment includes:

  • mental illness
  • an acquired brain injury
  • personality disorders
  • an intellectual disability
  • a neurological disorder.

Treatment Intervention Program – Process

For defendants with a mental impairment only, the program is run the same way as the Magistrates’ Court Diversion Program. Supervision is low to medium, court reviews are every 2 months, and defendants will be linked to treatment services in the community.

For defendants who have a drug dependency problem, the program is more intensive and is in two phases. The first lasts 2 months and involves:

  • bail
  • court reviews every fortnight
  • contact with the Program Supervisor weekly or fortnightly
  • random drug testing at least twice weekly
  • referral to a drug treatment service for individuals or as part of a group.

Phase 2 continues for 4 months and involves:

  • monthly court reviews
  • random weekly drug testing
  • continued therapeutic intervention as in Phase 1
  • implementation of a revised rehabilitation and recovery plan
  • minimum fortnightly contact with the Program Supervisor.

This court program is available at all metropolitan Magistrates’ Courts and the Youth Court.

The Youth Court Treatment Intervention Program targets youth who, because of the nature of their offences, may not be eligible to participate in a family conference.

Nunga Court Treatment Program

In the Port Adelaide Nunga Court, defendants with an illicit substance abuse problem are given the option of deferring sentencing for 6 months and participating in the Nunga Court Treatment Program.

If the defendant agrees to address their substance use issues they are placed in a therapy group and a relapse prevention group. They must undergo random drug testing twice a week. One-on-one counselling is available if appropriate.

Abuse Prevention Program – Overview and Eligibility

This court program is for men only and is aimed at stopping abusive behaviour towards female partners or ex-partners (domestic violence). The program is also known as the DV Prevention Program (DVPP).

If referral to the program is a condition of an Intervention Order the defendant must attend. Referral can also be a condition of bail.

A male with a mental impairment or with substance dependence issues may not be eligible if cognitive functioning is affected and / or he poses a risk to the safety of anyone involved in the program. He must also live in an area where services are available and be able to attend regular sessions.

Abuse Prevention Program – Process

Progress on the program is monitored by the Court and police are notified if conditions are not complied with.

The DVPP is currently offered by Kornar Winmil Yunti (KWY) and Offenders Aid and Rehabilitation Services (OARS).

  • The DV/MRT group program runs for 24 weeks. It is based on Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT)™, a cognitive behavioural program. It addresses the fundamental dynamics of violence toward women and is presented in a workbook containing both information and exercises for participants. One module should be completed per week. Each group caters for up to 12 men, and there are 8 groups operating in the metropolitan area.
  • The Safe Relationships program is a group program which runs for 12 weeks and is for men who are unsuitable for the DV/MRT program. It, too, uses cognitive behavioural techniques and involves reading and exercises to be completed at home. The program caters for up to 12 men.
  • A group program which uses a narrative therapy approach is offered to Aboriginal men over a 12 week period. This program is run by KWY.
  • For those men who do not have sufficient English language skills to participate in a group session, up to 8 individual counselling sessions are available.

A specialist service is also available to support the partners or ex-partners and children of men referred to a DVPP. This service, the Women’s Safety Contact Program, operates wherever a DVPP is provided. The providers of both services work together to prioritise the safety of women.

This article reflects the state of the law as at 2 December 2015. 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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