Substance misuse court
A Substance Misuse Court is aimed at offenders who commit crimes related to their drug or alcohol abuse. It allows a judge to send them on an intensive treatment programme, before sentencing, to help them beat their addictions and change their behaviour.
A Substance Misuse Court is being trialled at Belfast Magistrates’ Court.
Helping to break the cycle of crime
Some people are convicted at court and sentenced to a time in prison only to very quickly reoffend and go through the whole process again.
As their criminal record grows the prison sentences are repeated and the offender finds themselves in a repeating cycle of crime, court, prison.
The Substance Misuse Court takes an alternative approach to help offenders, when substance abuse is the underlying problem. It aims to tackle the root causes of their criminal behaviour and provides them with support to help them turn their lives around.
How the court works
In the Substance Misuse Court, the offender will sign up to a strict treatment plan aimed at tackling their substance misuse, instead of going immediately to prison.
As part of the plan, the offender will have regular contact with staff from the Probation Board as well as other health professionals. They will also have regular and random drug and alcohol testing.
The offenders progress and any risks they pose to the public will be closely monitored and reported back to the court.
They will appear at least once a month before a judge. Participants will be under the supervision of a judge throughout the entire process.
Sentencing after the treatment programme
If the offender successfully completes the programme they will be sentenced by the judge, who will take into account their participation in the programme.