Monday, 12 November 2012 11:43
Mike Sabin MP for Northland was a proud guest of the first ever sitting of Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court (AODTC) at Waitakere District Court last Thursday, following the launch of the pilot programme by Justice Minister Judith Collins at the beginning of the month.
“It was a privilege to be at the first sitting of this AODTC, both because of the potential for these courts to reduce recidivism by addressing drug and alcohol dependence of offenders, but also because I have been a strong supporter of these courts and their effectiveness,” says Mr Sabin.
A former police detective and specialist in the methamphetamine area, Mr Sabin came to public prominence in the late 2000s as the founder of a drug policy and education company working to provide solutions to New Zealand’s methamphetamine crisis. He carried out research into various strategies to address the growth in methamphetamine and while in the United States met the founder of the Drug Court movement over 20 years ago, Judge Peggy Hora (retired Judge of the California Superior Court).
“During the many trips I did to the US, I was able to get a unique insight into the efficacy of the courts from Judge Hora, one of the world’s authorities on what is commonly referred to as the most significant innovation in the criminal justice movement,” says Mr Sabin.
In 2010 Mr Sabin assisted in bringing Judge Hora to New Zealand to meet with stakeholders across the criminal justice sector, providing a first-hand appreciation of the drug court model.
“The AODTC takes a problem-focused approach and follows a treatment model rather than the traditional adversarial model, providing a holistic platform for suitable drug dependant, non-violent offenders to confront the drug and alcohol addictions that have fuelled their offending.
“The AODTC Judge leads a team comprising of the police prosecution, defence lawyer, treatment providers, case managers and other associated organisations, in a post-plea process that aims to use the coercive nature of the criminal justice system, in parallel to an intensive holistic approach to support offenders to address their addictions.
“Studies of the effect of AODTC on recidivism rates in the United States show a reduction in re-offending of between 10 and 25 per cent across different jurisdictions. Judge Hora believes similar results could achieved here and said the she knows that many across the world are watching with interest at how the courts progress in New Zealand, with the potential for them to be word-leading.
“Re-offending has fallen by almost 7 per cent over the past year and it is important that we as government continue delivering results in this area, something reflected in this innovative new way of working,” says Mr Sabin.
The pilot, which is running in both Waitakere and Auckland Courts will run for 5 years and will be evaluated for success in treatment outcomes, reduction in reoffending, and cost effectiveness.
“The first hearing of the AODTC was quite special and I was delighted to see Judge Hora who came along to support the launch of the programme and the first hearing day. I am proud to be part of a government that is doing more to support victims of crime while also addressing the drivers of crime across the criminal justice continuum,” says Mr Sabin