Various programs operate to divert first-time offenders away from the criminal justice system and enable them to access programs to assist in dealing with their drug use. The Federal Government's version of the Drug Diversion Initiative can be downloaded at www.nationaldrugstrategy.gov.au.
Court Referral & Evaluation for Drug Intervention & Treatment (CREDIT / Bail Support Program)
This program has been set up at the following suburban and country courts - Ballarat, Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Frankston, Geelong, Heidelberg and Ringwood. There is also a Rural Outreach Diversion worker located at the Bendigo Magistrate's Court.
Any defendant eligible to be admitted to a period of bail may be referred to the CREDIT / Bail Support Program for support in engaging with:
- alcohol and other drug services, including assistance with pharmacotherapy;
- accommodation services;
- psychosocial supports, including mental health, sexual assault and behaviour modification programs; and
- assistance with Centrelink, material aid and travel.
If the defendant is on a current order through Corrections that does not encompass access to alcohol and other drugs counselling, they may be assessed for the program.
This program involves the offender being bailed by the magistrate to another court date with conditions that they comply with all requirements of the program, and if improvement is made this will be taken into account when sentencing.
Note: The CREDIT / Bail Support Program formerly operating in the Melbourne, Sunshine and Moe Magistrates' Courts is now incorporated under the services of the CISP program (see following).
Court Integrated Services Program (CISP)
CISP is a new initiative established by the Department of Justice and the Magistrates Court of Victoria, which is able to link defendants with support services relating to:
- drug and alcohol dependency;
- mental health;
- young offenders; and
- Koori specific needs.
The service involves assessment and case management where necessary, and is aimed at offenders who have a moderate or high risk of offending and the causes of offending.
The service is available at Melbourne, the Sunshine and Latrobe Valley Magistrates' Courts. In order to access the program, a referral form must be completed and is available from the support services counter at these locations.
General eligibility criteria
- The defendant must be charged with an offence;
- the defendant's history of offending or current offending indicates a likelihood of further offending;
- the matter before the court warrants intervention to reduce risk and address needs; and
- the defendant has physical or mental disabilities or illnesses, drug and alcohol dependency and misuse issues, or inadequate social, family and economic support that contribute to the frequency or severity of their offending.
Note: Defendants are eligible for the program regardless of whether a plea has been entered or whether they intend to plead guilty or not.
First Offender Court Intervention Service (FOCiS)
Run through Moreland Hall (see full listing in Chapter 9, Drug and Alcohol Agencies), FOCiS is a sentencing option for magistrates and is aimed at first time drug offenders found guilty of possession of no more than 1 gram of amphetamine, cocaine, heroin, LSD, 0.75 grams of MDMA or similar quantities of other amphetamines and MDA.
How does it work? The offender is given a bond with condition attached agreeing to attend a 2 1/2 hour drug education and information session. Failure to attend more than once results in a police informant being notified of breach of conditions (notification sent to Officer in Charge of Police Station).
The aims of FOCiS are:
- to provide drug and harm minimisation information;
- to provide an opportunity, with the assistance of a trained alcohol and other drug counsellor/educator to reflect upon drug using behaviours and the possibility of changing those behaviours;
- to provide the offender with linkage to alcohol and other drug services and other health and welfare services; and
- to avoid the stigma of conviction for first time offenders.