‘Not enough to be tough on crime’: Pioneering NSW Drug Court expands to tackle

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“It’s not enough to be ‘tough on crime’; instead we need to be tough and smart. We need responses based on evidence, not on outmoded prejudices or easy headlines. We need responses that actually make a difference for the individuals, families, friends and communities battling illicit drug abuse.”

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Mr Speakman said the program was “not a soft option” and was proven to be more a cost-effective way of driving down crime than sending offenders to prison.

“It’s no surprise, then, that the NSW Police support it too,” he said.

Drug Court senior Judge Roger Dive, who has been leading the court for 17 years, said people did not choose to be drug addicts and were often the last to know it’s possible to get better.

“Our society gains when we do something really sensible and give drug users an opportunity to recover. It’s good for the community, good for the budget and very good for the families of those in recovery,” he said.

A study by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, released last year, found the reoffending rate among 604 participants monitored over more than a decade was 17 per cent lower than similar offenders outside the program. They also took 22 per cent longer to commit a violent offence.

The court funding is part of the next state budget, to be unveiled on Tuesday. The Dubbo facility has already been constructed.

Expanding the court to priority regional areas was a focus of recommendations made by the government’s special commission of inquiry into ice, which is methamphetamine in its crystallised form.

Ice is the most consumed illicit drug in Australia and rates of use are higher in rural and regional areas than in cities. The drug abuse in these areas fuels higher rates of other crime.

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