Drug Diversion Program in Tasmania
In Tasmania, a court-mandated drug diversion program gives a magistrate the option to divert an eligible offender into a drug treatment program to address their drug issues. It is available at all Magistrates Courts in Tasmania and the laws that govern the program are set out in the Sentencing Act 1997. This article outlines the drug diversion program in Tasmania.
Drug Treatment Orders
After pleading guilty to charges, or being found guilty, a person can be sentenced to a Drug Treatment Order (DTO). This is an intensive community-based sentence that has a custodial sentence attached to it. Before an offender is sentenced, the court will ask for an assessment report as to whether they are eligible and suitable for the program. After reading that report, the magistrate will decide whether or not to sentence them to a DTO.
A person will only be assessed for a DTO if they consent to this. The main aim of the program is to break the drug/crime cycle by putting in place treatment and rehabilitation programs for drug-related offending. Treatment options can include residential rehabilitation, detox, individual and/or group counselling, programs and intensive case management.
Principal goals of the program
The main aims of the program are:
- to provide offenders with an opportunity to acknowledge and address their offending behaviour caused by their drug abuse, which will improve their physical and psychological wellbeing
- to assist offenders to abstain from drug use and to help them to develop and implement relapse prevention strategies
- to assist offenders to break the drug-crime cycle and not to relapse into drug use and criminal behaviour
- to help offenders to obtain stability with their physical and mental health, to build positive relationships with their family and to be involved in the community through educational and/or employment programs and community pro-social activities.
To be eligible to be sentenced to a Drug Treatment Order the offender must:
- be over 18 years of age
- plead guilty to or be found guilty of all offences
- be facing a prison sentence for the offence/s
- have a history of illicit drug use that has led to the offences
- be willing to undertake the program
- have no charges relating to sexual offences or the infliction of actual bodily harm or other serious harm, including any outstanding charges. It is available for domestic violence offences where those offences are drug related.
- not be under a sentencing order imposed by the Supreme Court, nor be on parole or on another Drug Treatment Order.
A DTO will include conditions to help an offender achieve abstinence from drugs and to help prevent future offences. It will include a prison sentence which will be put on hold for the time that the offender is complying with the DTO. If the offender no longer meets the conditions of the DTO then the court can activate that prison sentence.
There is no time limit to complete the DTO but they will usually run for between 18 and 24 months. It must be reviewed by the magistrate after 24 months, whether it has been completed or not. It is divided into three phases, the stabilisation, the consolidation and the re-integration phase. There is also no set time frame to complete each phase and progression through the phases depends on how long it takes the offender to satisfactorily complete each of them.
The magistrate will review the progress of an offender through regular court appearances. The Court Diversion Officer (CDO) will work with the offender to make sure they are complying with the program and will provide progress reports to the magistrate at each review.
Drug Treatment Orders
Offenders on DTOs will have many restrictions placed on them and they will be required to meet various obligations to help support them to break the drug-crime cycle and to recover from their drug use. The restrictions that are imposed are to:
- abstain from any illicit drug use
- undertake random and regular urinalysis
- attend face-to-face case management with a CDO
- attend all court reviews with a magistrate
- attend individual counselling and group programs as directed
- comply with any additional obligations decided as necessary by the magistrate or the CDO. These obligations will be explained to the offender by the magistrate or the CDO after they have been sentenced to the program.
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