New Zealand Law Society - Alcohol and Drug Court conference draws several hundred

Alcohol and Drug Court conference draws several hundred

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A conference held in Auckland to push an alternative approach to dealing with alcohol and drug fuelled crime through the courts drew several hundred supporters from all over the country.

Last weekend the Aotearoa Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Courts (AODTC) conference was held. A pilot programme has been running over the past six years at the busy Waitakere and Auckland District Courts.

Judges Ema Aitken and Lisa Tremewan from the AODTC ran the event in partnership with the Auckland Law School.

Other speakers included various university law lecturers, along with retired Judge Peggy Hora who is a former presiding Judge of the Drug Treatment Court in California. A range of other international academics were also involved.

The therapeutic court is similar to a United States model. The courts have been extensively evaluated overseas and are based on evidence-based best practice.

It includes restorative justice where recovering addicts are able to make amends to their victims during the course of the programme.

Criminal barrister Bridie Murphy leads a team of lawyers at Waitakere District Court who work in the AODTC. She says around 280 people attended.

“Along with lawyers, judges and other people in the law profession from throughout the country and overseas, there were drug and alcohol counsellors there too. A big contingent from Hamilton came as they’re very keen to get the AODTC running there,” she says.

Importantly, people who have successfully gone through the court system, turned their lives around and remained free of alcohol and drugs shared their experience with the audience.

“They’re the living examples of how this court works and helps people turn their lives around. Their story is the most important of all of them,” she says.

While the AODTC pilot continues with uncertainty, the Minister for Justice, Andrew Little has indicated that he would like the initiative introduced to courts throughout the country.