Drug Court of New South Wales

Drug Court news

Sydney Drug Court becomes fulltime

Publication date:  28 March 2024

The Sydney Drug Court expansion continues. Amendments to the Drug Court Regulation take effect on Friday 29 March 2024.

The amendment will further increase the catchment area of the Sydney Drug Court by prescribing ten additional eligible Local Government Areas (LGAs). From 29 March 2024 the Sydney Drug Court eligible LGA’s will be:

Bayside, Burwood, Canada Bay, City of Sydney, Georges River, Hunters Hill, Inner West, Lane Cove, Mosman, North Sydney, Randwick, Ryde, Strathfield, Waverley, Willoughby, and Woollahra.

All District and Local Courts can refer eligible offenders who reside in one of the expanded catchment LGAs from 29 March 2024.

The Sydney Drug Court will increase its sitting days as referrals increase to become a fulltime Drug Court located at the Downing Centre.

For more information, refer to the Drug Court Guide to Referring Eligible Persons

Sydney Drug Court expansion

Publication date:  21 August 2023

The Sydney Drug Court is expanding. Drug Court Amendment Regulation 2023 commenced on 21 August 2023 allowing referrals to the Drug Court program from new Local Government Areas (LGAs).

To be an eligible person for the Drug Court program, a person must reside in one of the prescribed LGAs. The amendment increases the catchment area of the Sydney Drug Court by including the Local Government Areas of Bayside, Georges River, City of Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra.

The Sydney Drug Court commenced sitting two days a week on a Wednesday and Thursday at the Downing Centre, from 20 September 2023.

All District and Local Courts can refer eligible offenders who reside in one of the expanded catchment LGAs from 21 August 2023.

For more information, refer to the Drug Court Guide to Referring Eligible Persons. (PDF, 180.5 KB)

Refer to the media release.

Drug Court expands to Dubbo

Publication date:  12 January 2023

The Drug Court Amendment (Court Expansion) Regulation 2022 commenced on 12 January 2023, allowing referrals to the new Dubbo Drug Court.

The Dubbo Drug Court commenced sitting on 20 February 2023.

This marks the expansion of an historically metropolitan-based program to its first remote regional location in New South Wales.

The expansion forms part of the NSW Government response to the Special Commission of Inquiry into the drug “ice” (the Ice Inquiry). The funding provided permits the court to sit two days per week in Dubbo, creating an opportunity for up to 80 eligible persons to undertake the program at any one time.

In June 2021, Deputy Premier John Barilaro announced that the NSW Government will be investing $27.9 million over the coming four financial years to expand the NSW Drug Court to Dubbo.

Attorney General Mark Speakman said the expansion of the Drug Court will help break the cycle of drug dependency. Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders said the Drug Court will offer long-term solutions to keep the Western Plains safe.

Former Senior Judge of the Drug Court Roger Dive said the program uses an innovative, therapeutic approach to help hardened offenders with entrenched behaviours.

For more information refer to the DCJ media release.

Download Media Release: Drug Court expands to Dubbo

Referrals permitted from all Local and District Court’s

Publication date:  12 January 2023

From 12 January 2023, the power to make referrals to the Drug Court is extended to all Local Courts and District Courts in New South Wales.

This is a significant change to the previous approach, which restricted referrals to specified courts sitting in and around the catchment areas for existing Drug Court locations.

The Drug Court Amendment (Court Expansion) Regulation 2022 omits this list of specified courts and allows the District Court and the Local Court, regardless of where the court is sitting in New South Wales, to refer eligible persons to the Drug Court.

In seeking this change, the Drug Court’s intention was to ensure its program is available as a therapeutic intervention in communities characterised by high levels of drug dependency and associated offending behaviour.

For more information, refer to the Drug Court Guide to Referring Eligible Persons. (PDF, 180.5 KB)

Drug Court welcomes new senior judge

Publication date:  21 July 2021

Deputy Chief Magistrate Jane Mottley AM will be made a permanent judge of the District Court and be sworn in as the Senior Judge of the NSW Drug Court to replace his Honour Judge Roger Dive, who is retiring.

Attorney General Mark Speakman said Deputy Chief Magistrate Mottley will bring more than 30 years of legal experience to the Drug Court bench.

Mr Speakman said that “Deputy Chief Magistrate Mottley is the ideal candidate to take the work of the Drug Court forward after the compassion and leadership of Judge Dive,”.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Mottley was admitted as a solicitor in 1989, becoming a magistrate in 2000. She sat in the Children’s Court, in the Local Courts, including on the Parkes circuit before being appointed Deputy Chief Magistrate in 2009. Her Honour has been an acting judge of the District Court since 2017 while presiding as a judge of the Drug Court.

Her Honour said she was delighted to be awarded the opportunity to lead the Drug Court.

For more information refer to the DCJ media release.

Download Media Release: New judge to lead NSW Drug Court 

20th Anniversary of the Drug Court of NSW

Publication date:  22 February 2019

A most significant milestone was commemorated at the Drug Court's recent conference - the 20th anniversary of the Drug Court of NSW.  It has been 20 years since the Drug Court began operations in February 1999 at Parramatta.

"Drug Court is a fine example of how the NSW justice system has adapted and innovated to provide more effective solutions towards the restoration of offenders."  said The Honourable Mark Speakman SC MP, Attorney General of NSW in his opening address.  He added that the Drug Court takes an "innovative and relevant" approach to criminal behaviour and "it has changed the way that drug dependent offenders interact with the justice system".

Over 150 conference participants from government and non government partner agencies, including interstate guests, attended the Conference and enjoyed the Program that was designed to deliver relevant content, inspire, educate and promote cross agency interaction.

International guest speaker, Judge Peggy Hora (Ret), President of the Justice Speakers Institute, Author and International Speaker, held the room with her Keynote Address: "Looking Back and Moving Forward"  Judge Hora outlined the commencement and development of Drug Courts globally and the key components of many solution focused courts around the world.

Dr Santiago Vazquez, Branch Director Forensic Chemistry, Forensic & Analytical Science Service, NSW Health Pathology, delivered information on a very significant topic "Drugs, metabolism and testing".

Professor Jane Burns, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney presented on how technology can play a role in engaging young people.  Further practical information was provided by Ms Petrea King, CEO, Quest for Life Foundation – a Self Care session, whilst an interactive Hypotheticals session led by His Honour Judge Paul Cloran, Drug Court of NSW, invited contribution and lively discussion amongst all conference participants.

The most moving and poignant session, of the conference program, belonged to a couple who graduated from the Drug Court program 10 years ago. The room was absolutely silent as the audience heard their remarkable story, which includes four children and a successful business in rural NSW.  They also spoke of the shame they carry for their offending, and are very involved in community work in an effort to make amends.

The objectives of the Drug Court are to reduce drug dependency, promote reintegration into the community and reduce the need to resort to criminal behaviour.

The Attorney General of NSW added "The Drug Court program works because of the truly collaborative and cooperative approach to case management that is in place across the many services and disciplines".

The Drug Court, the interagency team, Court and Program face daily challenges and continue to persevere to meet the objectives of the Drug Court, to break the cycle of drugs and crime and in turn, make communities safer.

Successful Drug Court graduation marked with traditional Aboriginal dance

Publication date:
  22 February 2019

Spellbound. The only word which could describe the effect on everyone in the Parramatta Drug Court courtroom this month when a surprise traditional Aboriginal dance broke the hushed tones of the usual proceedings.

The successful completion of a proud Aboriginal man’s Drug Court Program was marked with a traditional Aboriginal dance by the community of The Glen, an Aboriginal specific rehabilitation centre on the NSW Central Coast.

NSW Drug Court Program Graduation

In order to graduate from the Drug Court Program, a person must remain drug and crime free, stabilise their social and domestic environment, gain employment or be employment ready and be fiscally responsible.  

By the end of his Program this graduate, with assistance from The Glen, was able to obtain work, stable accommodation, repay financial debts and re-establish family relationships.

The Justice Health Clinical Nurse consultant said “the celebration witnessed a path travelled and a new path to independence, achieved with the support of his brothers in spirit”.

The objectives of the Drug Court are set out in Drug Court Act 1998:- 

  • to reduce the drug dependency of eligible persons,
  • to promote the re-integration of such drug dependent persons into the community,
  • to reduce the need for such drug dependent persons to resort to criminal activity to support their drug dependencies.

2017 saw a record number  88 graduations across all Drug Courts - and this will probably be the most spectacular in 2018. 

Thai Supreme Court Delegation Visits Drug Court

Publication date: Thursday, 10 August 2017

The President of the Supreme Court of Thailand was among a delegation of 10 Thai Supreme Court justices and judges who visited courts in Sydney and Canberra

His Honour Judge Roger Dive, Senior Judge of the Drug Court of NSW, hosted Chief Justice Veerapol Tungsuwan and his colleagues at the Parramatta Drug Court.

The Thai judicial officers were particularly interested in 'therapeutic courts' like the Drug Court, which works with eligible offenders who are dependent on drugs to treat their drug dependency and reduce their likelihood of committing further criminal offences.

Judge Dive gave the delegation an overview of the court's innovative, tailored treatment programs, and answered a wide range of questions about the court's development and operations.

Chief Justice Tungsuwan and his colleagues also toured the Compulsory Drug Treatment Correctional Centre at Parklea during their visit to Sydney. The Drug Court has judicial supervision of the specialist CDTCC, which houses offenders whom the Drug court has sentenced to a Compulsory Drug Treatment Order. 

NSW Drug Court Marks 18th Year

Practitioners' conference emphasises strength, resilience and recovery

Publication date: Thursday, 9 March 2017

The NSW Drug Court, the first of its kind in Australia, marked its 18th year of operation at its practitioners' conference at the end of February.

The Drug Court Practitioners 'Conference 2017, which was opened by NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman SC, brought together more than 100 counsellors, case managers, rehabilitation workers, lawyers and judicial officers who work at the three Drug Court locations in NSW, for a day of practical presentations and discussions about 'therapeutic justice'.

In his introductory remarks, His Honour Judge Roger Dive, Senior Judge of the Drug Court, shared some poignant stories of people whose lives had been turned around by their participation in the Drug Court program.

The keynote address at the conference was given by Mr Deng Adut, the 2017 NSW nominee for Australian of the Year. Mr Adut, who came to Australia as a refugee from South Sudan, having fought in the army as a young boy, spoke of the importance of resilience and second chances. Mr Adut's incredibly personal story of strength and courage and his incredible journey from child soldier to Australian lawyer resonated soundly with the conference participants. As Judge Dive later observed, you could have heard a pin drop while Mr Adut relayed his extraordinary story.

The conference program featured professionals in health and academic research; judicial officers from drug courts in NSW and Victoria; and representatives from non-government service providers.

Judge Dive was delighted with the enthusiasm and energy that flowed through the day. "The people who work in the Drug Court program are thoroughly dedicated to helping people change their lives. That dedication was so clear at the conference and it was tremendous to bring people together to learn, to share, and to connect with each other."

The NSW Drug Court enables eligible drug-dependent people who are charged with criminal offences to take part in a structured, monitored program designed to reduce, or even eliminate, their dependence on drugs. The idea is that reducing a person's dependence on drugs should reduce their need to resort to criminal activity to support their drug dependence, and allow them to function as a law-abiding member of society. The NSW Drug Court operates in Parramatta, in the Hunter region and in central Sydney.

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found that people treated in the Drug Court program are 37% less likely to be convicted of an offence and 58% less likely to be reconvicted of a drug offence.

Find out more about the Drug Court and its program at www.drugcourt.justice.nsw.gov.au. 

Drug Court of NSW Practitioner's Conference

The 2014 Drug Court Practitioners conference was held on 15 August 2014.

Honour Judge Dive, Senior Judge of the Drug Court, opened the conference welcoming 130 conference participants from NSW and interstate including interagency partners from Parramatta, Hunter and Sydney Drug Courts.

The father of a graduate from the Hunter Drug Court provided a moving account on his experience of the Hunter Drug Court. This speaker commended the efforts of the Drug Court and said that the Drug Court returned his 38 year old son, who was involved in the criminal justice system for 18 years, to their family and believes that his son has now become "the person he was always meant to be".

Addiction - is it moral failure, a personality disorder, a disease or a biological predisposition? Professor John Saunders, Professor and Consultant Physician in Internal Medicine and Addiction Medicine discussed these issues when presenting 'Understanding Addiction'.

What to do about illicit drugs?" Dr Alex Wodak AM, Emeritus Consultant, Alcohol and Drug Service, St Vincent's Hospital posed this question, speaking on the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of drug treatment and harm reduction.

The conference participants gained more insight into the complex needs of women in the justice system where Dr Eileen Baldry, Professor of Criminology, University of NSW stated that significant saving are to be gained if appropriate holistic services are provided to prevent engagement and re-engagement of women in the criminal justice system.

Other speakers addressed the conference participants about Aboriginal cultural issues that affect relations with the criminal justice system and Mr Bowron, Senior Scientist, Drug Toxicology Unit provided an overview of how drugs are detected, how they are metabolised and how long they can stay in the body.

First graduate for Sydney Drug Court

It was a special sitting for the Sydney Drug Court at the Downing Centre on 29 May 2014, with the team gathering to mark and celebrate the first graduation. The young man at the centre of proceedings received heart-felt congratulations from every member of the cross-agency team for persisting with his recovery.  For the Sydney Court's first graduate, the tailored program involved literacy and numeracy education, as well as Narcotics Anonymous, and has also helped him re-establish his closest relationships.

In summing up the case, Senior Judge Dive also congratulated the team, noting the culture of respect and co-ordination across different agencies towards the common goal of community safety, and commending the Government for expanding the program to Sydney CBD in early 2013.

Sydney Drug Court and Housing NSW Partnership

In March 2014 the NSW Drug Court again partnered with Housing NSW to assist Drug Court participants into stable and secure housing in the Sydney District, a scheme that has operated successfully in the Greater Western Sydney District since 2011.

In launching the program, the District Director at Department of Family and Community Services, emphasised the importance of stable accommodation in a participant's recovery and said the program had been "integral in turning so many lives around. Senior Judge Dive said that housing underpins the recovery program for participants. "Without housing, without a safe place to sleep, the rest of our program is literally without foundation", he said.

The partnership will assist Drug Court participants to reintegrate into the community and meet the objectives of the Drug Court Act.

Sydney Drug Court Now Open

Amendments to the Drug Court Regulation 2010 commenced on 7 January 2013 allowing referrals to the new Sydney Drug Court.

The Sydney Drug Court commenced sitting at the Downing Centre on 14 February 2013.

View the quick guide to the Sydney Drug Court for practitioners.

Housing Accord Annual Report 2012: Drug Court of NSW and NSW Housing Partnership

The Drug Court of NSW recognises that stable housing is a fundamental element in supporting a drug dependant person's recovery and subsequent success on the Drug Court Program.

On 18 February 2011 a Shared Access Operating Agreement was signed between the Drug Court of NSW and Housing NSW. The partnership commenced with the signing of the agreement by Judge Dive, Senior Judge, Drug Court of NSW and Ken Bone, General manager of the Greater Western Sydney Housing Services Division.

The partnership is established under the NSW Housing and Human Services Accord that aims to provide housing and support to clients with complex housing needs in order to assist them to sustain their tenancies.

A series of meetings, presentations and interagency visits have ensued between the two partner agencies. Drug Court of NSW and NSW Housing worked co-operatively to address initial challenges and apply solutions.

In the period of twelve months since commencement of the Agreement, a total of eleven Drug Court participants have been referred. Six have been housed, two terminated from the program prior to being housed, one transferred to another NSW Housing home and two are on the priority list awaiting housing.

The Agreement was effective from 18 February 2011 for a period of two years. It is recommended that six monthly reviews occur to assess the efficiency of processes and procedures regarding the implementation of the Agreement.

Drug Court of NSW Practitioners' Conference

The Attorney General the Honourable Greg Smith SC MP opened the Drug Court of NSW's Practitioners - Conference on 2 December 2011.

The Attorney stated that his government is committed to reducing recidivism and pursuing programs that work and confirmed that the Drug Court will further expand. He verified that the Sydney Drug Court is scheduled to commence operations in May 2012, initially sitting one day per week and located at the Downing Centre.

The Attorney congratulated Judge Dive on receiving the prestigious Prime Minister's Award and stated "The good work that Judge Dive and his team achieves was recognised earlier this year at the 2011 National Drug and Alcohol Awards, an award that recognises an individual as having made a significant commitment and contribution to reducing the impact and negative effects of drug and alcohol use".

His Honour Judge Dive welcomed the 120 guests including Judges, Magistrates from NSW and interstate and interagency program partners from both Parramatta and Hunter Drug Courts.

Dr Eileen Baldry, Professor of Criminology, University of NSW gave a presentation outlining Pathways to Prison for Mentally Ill Offenders. Professor Ian Hickie AM from the Brain and Mind Research Institute spoke about the Development of the Brain and its related changes in cognitive function and social behaviour.

Other speakers addressed the conference on the effects of Drug Use and Crime on the Aboriginal and Vietnamese communities as well as prison communities. 

Craig Jones, Research Manager at the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research spoke about the recent findings from a trial of intensive judicial supervision on Drug Court outcomes.  The research, conducted at the Parramatta Drug Court, involved intensively supervising a sample of Drug Court participants more closely, preliminary results of which are very encouraging.

Dr Peter Bowron, Senior Scientist at the Palms Toxicology addressed the conference regarding analysis of biological samples for Drug Court.

The conference brought together those committed to therapeutic jurisprudence to share information and expertise.  This team based approach where all agencies co-ordinate and share information is the essence of the success of the Drug Court program.

Hunter Drug Court Officially Opened

On Monday, 7 March 2011 the Hunter Drug Court was officially opened. Senior Drug Court Judge, Judge Roger Dive Presided over the opening ceremony assisted by Acting Drug Court Judge, Judge Paul Cloran.

Since opening, the Hunter Drug Court has received a large number of referrals with many participants now on program. It is anticipated that this intensive program will treat approximately 80 offenders each year.

The Hunter Drug Court program is a duplication of the Parramatta Drug Court Program, which has been in operation for the past 12 years. The Hunter Drug Court expansion has been due in part to the positive findings of the BOSCAR review of the Parramatta Drug Court program. This review found that the Drug Court program provides a cost effective program that does reduce recidivism and drug use among participants.

In keeping with the Parramatta Drug Court model the Hunter Drug Court team work in a collaborative relationship with the Drug Court Judge and registry staff to support and facilitate each participant's progress through this successful program. The Hunter Drug Court team are drawn from partner agencies including NSW Police, ODPP, Legal Aid, Corrective Services and the Hunter Heath service. The team will work with other Government and Non-Government agencies in the Hunter region to affect change in the lives of Hunter Drug Court participants.

The Hunter Drug Court sits each Monday at the Toronto Court House and will expand to Tuesdays as the program increases. The Hunter Drug Court is now accepting referrals from the following Courts.

  • Newcastle District and Local Court
  • East Maitland District Court
  • Maitland Local Court
  • Belmont Local Court
  • Kurri Kurri Local Court
  • Raymond Terrace Local Court
  • Toronto Local Court

Drug Court of NSW partnership with Housing NSW

On 18 February 2011 a Shared Access Operating Agreement was signed between the Drug Court of NSW and Housing NSW.

The partnership commenced with the signing of the agreement by Judge Dive, Senior Judge, Drug Court of NSW and Ken Bone, General Manager of the Greater Western Sydney Housing Services Division.

The Shared Access Operating Agreement is an Agreement between the parties to provide housing and support to participants of the Drug Court Program in Western Sydney. The aim of both parties is to assist participants in sustaining a tenancy whilst engaging in services that reduce drug-dependency and re-offending.

The key objectives for the partnership are:

  • To provide support which assists participants with a drug dependence in sustaining a tenancy
  • To promote re-integration of program participants into the community
  • To reduce re-offending

At the signing His Honour Judge Dive said 'This accord will be a big step forward, whereby the Drug Court and Housing NSW will work together to identify and house up to 20 drug court participants at any one time, and allow them to move away from drugs and crime with the assistance of stable and secure housing'.

His Honour further added, 'This partnership means now eligible Drug Court clients will now receive support to find safe and secure housing and also to maintain the housing tenancy. These clients will continue to receive services that reduce drug-dependency and re-offending, reflecting the holistic approach of the Drug Court program'.

The Drug Court of NSW and Housing NSW will plan, co-ordinate and implement housing and support strategies to build and strengthen service responses for people with complex needs.

The partnership will operate for the next two years in Sydney West and Sydney South West Area Health Service boundaries.

Drug Court and Corrective Services NSW formalise partnership

The NSW Drug Court formalised its collaboration with Corrective Services NSW with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by Judge Roger Dive and Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Ron Woodham in June. The memorandum defines how the Community Compliance Group established by Corrective Services NSW works with the Drug Court to support participants comply with Court Orders and re-establish themselves in the community.

At the signing Judge Dive noted that the Drug Court, which operates in Parramatta was a true model of government and non-government organisations working together to provide a holistic program.

"The Drug Court and Corrective Services NSW are foundation partners in this program. We have been working together to make this program the outstanding success it is for over 11 years", Judge Dive said. "The Memorandum of Understanding is a refreshing document. It embraces the concept of a treatment court, and sets out the support the Case Manager will provide to participants, so as to assist their re-integration into the community".

Compliance and Monitoring Officers ensure participants stay on track by maintaining regular contact, supervising and monitoring medical appointments and program activities. They also help participants gain assistance with employment, relationship, health and legal issues.

Commissioner Woodham described the partnership between Corrective Services NSW and the Drug Court as a healthy working relationship. "I look forward to staff from Corrective Services NSW and the Drug Court continuing to working together in managing repeat drug offenders and assisting them to return to the community and ultimately reduce reoffending rates", he said.

Drug Court celebrates 10th anniversary

Attorney General John Hatzistergos said the NSW Government is considering extending the NSW Drug Court as part of "a big year for therapeutic justice."

In his address to the Drug Court's conference in Parramatta on 6 February, Mr Hatzistergos said that the Drug Court could be extended to other locations in NSW. The first of its kind in Australia, the Drug Court is celebrating 10 years of operation.

The Court has helped almost 1700 drug-dependent offenders to address the causes of their criminal behaviour. Around 150 defendants complete the program each year, following intensive drug treatment and rehabilitation.

The Court's success at rehabilitating non-violent, drug addicted offenders has given it significant international renown, according to Senior NSW Drug Court Judge Roger Dive, who also spoke at the conference.

The Deputy Director of the NSW Drug Court by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Craig Jones, presented the Bureau's second evaluation of the Drug Court. Graduates of the Drug Court rehabilitation program were compared to those who were not accepted into the program. The researchers found that those who had completed the Drug Court program were less likely to be reconvicted than offenders given conventional sanctions.

Professor Richard Mattick, Director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, gave a presentation outlining the trends in drug use in NSW and Australia. Professor Mattick's research showed that Australia was experiencing an increase in the use of the class of drugs known as methamphetamines. These include the drug ice, a substance notorious for causing violent behaviour, which he said would be a challenge for a program such as the Drug Court.



Last updated:

01 May 2024

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