A new pilot programme - a ‘Substance Misuse Court’ - challenges offenders to tackle their drug and alcohol misuse. The new Substance Misuse Court pilot will allow the Judge to refer offenders, who have been convicted of an offence related to their alcohol or drugs misuse, to an intensive treatment-focused behavioural change programme before sentencing.
International evidence suggests that this type of intensive treatment is a more effective intervention to rehabilitate offenders in cases where substance misuse is the underlying problem.
The programme will be delivered by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) in partnership with Addiction NI. Participants will be required to undertake random drug and/or alcohol testing in addition to regular sampling and treatment sessions and must attend court at least once a month for review by the Judge in charge of the programme.
These review hearings allow the Judge to directly supervise the defendant’s progress over the duration of the programme, whilst maintaining a personal involvement with the case and holding the offender directly to account for their offence. Up to 50 offenders will participate in the pilot which is expected to run for approximately nine months.
Acting Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service, Peter Luney said, “This is an innovative pilot which will allow the court to actively support individuals in a new way….The launch of this pilot presents an opportunity to break the cycle of offending and, ultimately, another opportunity for the Department of Justice to play its role in creating a safe community for Northern Ireland, where we respect the law and each other.”