Who is eligible for the Drug Court program?

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for the Drug Court a person must:

  • be highly likely to be sentenced to fulltime imprisonment if convicted
  • have indicated that he or she will plead guilty to the offence
  • be dependent on the use of prohibited drugs
  • must live in the Local Government Areas of Canterbury-Bankstown, City of Blacktown, City of Campbelltown, City of Cessnock, City of Fairfield, City of Hawkesbury, City of Lake Macquarie, City of Liverpool, City of Maitland, City of Newcastle, City of Parramatta, City of Penrith, City of Sydney, Cumberland, Port Stephens, The Hills Shire; 
  • be referred from the District Court at Campbelltown, Parramatta, Penrith, East Maitland, Newcastle or Sydney;
  • be referred from the Local Court at Bankstown, Belmont, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Central, Cessnock, Downing Centre, Fairfield, Kurri Kurri, Liverpool, Maitland, Mount Druitt, Newcastle, Newtown, Parramatta, Penrith, Raymond Terrace, Toronto, Waverly and Windsor
  • be 18 years of age or over
  • be willing to participate

Who is not eligible?

A person is not eligible if he or she is:

  • charged with an offence involving violent conduct;
  • charged with a sexual offence or an offence punishable under Division 2 Part 2 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985
  • suffering from a mental condition that could prevent or restrict participation in the program.

A Local or District Court in the defined catchment area must refer offenders who appear to meet the Drug Court eligibility criteria to the Drug Court. The initial referral is by a telephone call. Before the offender is brought to the Drug Court, the Drug Court Registry staff conduct a preliminary eligibility screening based on the person's age, location of residence and referring court.

Whenever there are more eligible applicants than there are available program places, a weekly random selection process occurs to determine which applicants are assigned to available places on the program.

The number of places available each week is determined by the Senior Judge, in consultation with the court team, after consideration of the number of participants currently actively engaged in their program.

At first appearance before the Drug Court preliminary inquiries as to eligibility are made, including an evaluation of drug dependency.

Previous participants and applicants

Refer to Policy 12 -  Selection of Participants regarding entry onto program for previous participants and previously refused participants.

Previous participants

An applicant who has previously been a Drug Court participant is not an appropriate person for a Drug Court program if it is less than three years since final sentence was imposed in relation to the participant's last Drug Court program, or if it is less than three years since the completion of the non-parole period of any final sentence that was imposed (not suspended), whichever is the later.

Previously refused applicants

If an applicant referred to the Drug Court has, within two years of the date of referral, been found to not be an appropriate person under s 7A(2) or the previous section, s 7(2), the applicant is not an appropriate person for a Drug Court program, and the Registrar will notify the referring Court that the applicant has not been accepted.

If a person is unsuccessful on the ballot, they are ineligible to be placed on any future ballots for the same offences.

The Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) may raise a concern regarding a person's entry into a Drug Court program because of matters in the person's criminal history (s 7A(2)). The Court will be concerned about matters of violence, and may require evidence to be presented about the likelihood of a person committing a violent or dangerous offence while on a program.

In a case where the DPP hold the applicant not an 'appropriate' person or a person who may or may not be 'appropriate', they will request that the court make a determination as to 'appropriateness'.

The Court may find that:

  • on the information available, the person is appropriate for a Drug Court program
  • on the information available, the person is not appropriate for a Drug Court program
  • the person is an appropriate person, but only if additional special conditions are added to his or her program plan
  • a hearing is to be held to determine appropriateness

If a hearing is required, the Court will hear submissions and determine whether the Court would be assisted by the preparation of a psychiatric report. Other evidence may also be obtained.

There is no appeal against a decision taken by the Drug Court to refuse entry to a program.

Offenders who are referred to the Drug Court but do not enter the Drug Court program are usually sent back to the referring court for sentence.

Last updated:

06 Jul 2020

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