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    Premier & Treasurer
    The Honourable Peter Beattie

    Crime-Busting Drug Courts To Be Permanent In QLD

    Premier & Treasurer
    The Honourable Peter Beattie

    Monday, August 15, 2005

    Crime-Busting Drug Courts To Be Permanent In QLD

    The EKKA: The Queensland Government will make drug courts a permanent weapon in Queensland's fight against crime, Premier Peter Beattie and Attorney-General and Justice Minister Linda Lavarch announced today.

    Mr Beattie and Mrs Lavarch said Cabinet had decided to make drug courts permanent, because there was compelling evidence that a pilot program in North and Far North Queensland and the South East had prevented crime.

    "Drug courts have broken the cycle of drug addiction and crime," Mr Beattie said after a Cabinet meeting at the Royal Queensland Show.

    "More than 150 offenders have graduated from the program since it started in 2000.

    "The program has prevented potentially thousands of crimes such as home and business burglaries, car thefts, shop-lifting and other crimes that feed drug addictions.

    "The program was due to finish at the end of 2006, but Cabinet has today decided that the Attorney-General will legislate to make it permanent.

    "As well, the Cabinet Budget Review Committee has secured new funding of $30 million for the drug courts over three years," Mr Beattie said.

    Drug courts impose Intensive Drug Rehabilitation Orders instead of prison on suitable offenders whose drug addiction contributed to their offending. However anyone who fails to complete the program must return to court and be re-sentenced on the original offence.

    Mr Beattie said: "Drug courts have never been open to sex offenders, and this will continue.

    "To maximise the benefits of the program, Cabinet has agreed to give more offenders access to the program - provided they are not sexual or violent offenders. "However, we will also strengthen the bar against people with a history of violence.

    "People will not be able to take part if the crimes bringing them before the court involve violence.

    "This will now extend to summary offences, whereas the current law bars people from the program if they have committed an indictable - or higher range - violent offence.

    "For example, under the new system the court may determine that someone who breaches a domestic violence order is not eligible for the program," Mr Beattie said.

    Mrs Lavarch, who will introduce changes to the Drug Rehabilitation (Court Diversion) Act 2000, said positive evidence about the pilot program includes a 2003 Australian Institute of Criminology study which found a much lower rate of re-offending among drug court graduates.

    "The pilot Drug Court program has worked well in Beenleigh, Ipswich and Southport since 2000 and Townsville and Cairns since 2002," Mrs Lavarch said. "The Australian Institute of Criminology Report said offenders did not see the Drug Court as a "soft option". "Instead they considered dealing with their drug problems to be one of the most difficult things they have done," she said. Offences that could land someone in the Drug Court include prescribed drug offences but also offences such as fraud, receiving stolen property, wilful damage, forging and uttering and obtaining property by passing valueless cheques.

    It is expected that offenders ordered into drug rehabilitation will have the same types of offences under the new eligibility criteria, however they may have longer offending histories.

    15 August 2005

    Media contact: Paul Childs, Linda Lavarch's office, 0407 131 654 Premier's office: 3224 4500