Drug Court

Victoria Law Week and the New Bendigo Court

Victorian Law Week, held in May every year, is very often a source of free and fascinating events. While the state-wide program has partly finished, there are still online sessions open that provide legal advice about topics such as dispute resolution, intellectual property and law enforcement. 

An outstanding “real life” event this year held in Bendigo gave locals an opportunity to look more closely at the construction of the new court building which should be finished late 2022 and start operations in early 2023.

Held in the Bendigo library, the event gathered together lawyers from the Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre, Victoria Legal Aid and the Bendigo Law Association, alongside design and construction experts. Representatives of community groups and interested individuals were invited to inspect the plans and enjoy afternoon tea while talking to the gathered experts.

It was a perfect opportunity to look closely at some of the more cutting-edge elements being incorporated into the new court building such as the Drug Court. 

Representing Victoria legal Aid, Bendigo lawyer Karin Temperley said the new court facilities would be a distinct advantage for clients who were caught in a cycle of drug dependency and criminal activity.

Drug Courts have been running from Dandenong and Melbourne magistrates’ courts for several years and are in the process of expanding to Shepparton, Ballarat and Bendigo.

“Rather than go to prison, people who are sentenced to four years jail or less are eligible to be part of a Drug Court,” Ms Temperley said.

Participants must be regularly drug tested for the duration of the Drug Court sentence. The sentence is a two-year term and enables the participant to avoid prison. Participants must regularly meet with counsellors and be assessed weekly by a magistrate.

“It is a holistic approach which emphasises a rehabilitation response to drug and alcohol related crimes,” Ms Temperley added.

She recalled a moving incident she witnessed in a Drug Court in Melbourne where the participant was able to tell the magistrate that he had gone for a whole week without taking any drugs. It was the longest he had been off drugs since he had become an addict.

“The magistrate asked everyone in court to give him a round of applause. The participant was so moved by the response that he started crying, we were all crying in the end,” Ms Temperley said.

Ms Temperley said that she was excited by the opportunities that would be provided for her clients by the new Bendigo Law Court. “The new courts such as the Drug Court and the Koori Court will benefit not only our clients but their families and by extension, our community as a whole,” she said.  

Overseas and Australian research on the Drug Courts clearly indicates that they reduce the rates of recidivism, as well as crime-related costs to the community.

For further information:

New Bendigo Court https://www.courts.vic.gov.au/projects/bendigo-law-court-development

This article has been prepared for information purposes only and is not legal advice. For legal advice regarding your specific circumstances, please contact WR Law directly on (03) 5499 6131 or by email at admin@wrlaw.com.au

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