Pubdate: Mon, 27 Jun 2016
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Page: A1
Copyright: 2016 The London Free Press
Author: Jane Sims
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)


London drug treatment court, where addicts can avoid jail, suspends 
work, faces uncertain future

London's highly-touted drug treatment court is suspending its work 
this week, at least temporarily, raising concerns from the judge 
who's overseen it since it began six years ago.

Ontario Court Justice Wayne Rabley, in a written decision to send 
Darren Falconer, a crystal meth trafficker and user to prison for 
four years, said the court "is being shut down."

"Sadly, we live in a time where Crown resources are scarce and the 
need to focus on enforcement is understandably a priority," he wrote.

"I am told that is the hope of our Crowns that 'short-term' programs 
for those promising to change can somehow impact on the serious 
challenges that meth addicts, among others, present.

"I am not sure I will ever understand this thinking, which some may 
say is perhaps 'short term' given the havoc that this drug is causing 
in our community, but that debate is for another day."

But Middlesex County Crown Mary Potter said the court, where addicts 
can avoid jail if they are participate in extensive counselling and 
treatment programs that can take months or even years, is being 
suspended, not completely closed down.

"Certainly, there are discussions that are ongoing about the future 
of the court," she said.

Both the provincial Crown and the federal prosecution service that 
deals with drug laws are involved in the court.

The last scheduled day is Tuesday, when two people are expected to 
graduate from the program.

Two more graduates are expected to be recognized July 12.

The court began in 2010 and its first five years had 71 applicants 
and six graduates.

It's only one of a handful of courts across the country to take a 
non-traditional approach to the issue of drug addiction by monitoring 
addicts closely to get their lives back on track instead of sending 
them to jail.

The goal is to change lives, not just put a Band-Aid on the addictions.

The court has been "an unbelievable success," said Linda Sibley, 
executive director of Addiction Services of Thames Valley.

Though the decision to suspend the court "has not been taken 
lightly", she said "we're all disappointed."

Participants in the program, both graduates and those who left early, 
have kept in contact with the agency, telling it he lessons they 
learned from the program changed their lives. Some who were 
unsuccessful have sought out help after leaving the program with the agency.

Others have kept in touch while serving jail sentences.

Sibley said she understood the issue surrounding prosecution 
resources. She called the decision to suspend the program, "an 
interruption" and in a month to six weeks, there will be a new model 
of service put together to address the needs of the community.

Her hope is to engage the court again, but in the meantime the agency 
will redirect its funding and treatment team to assist other partners 
in the program, like the John Howard Society. She said she hopes to 
add an employment partner to the mix.

"We're going to continue to use what we've learned," Sibley said.

Still, she said, a full drug treatment court is on her wish list 
because she's seen how successful it can be.

"We've certainly left that door open and I'd walk back through that 
door in a heartbeat," she said.

Rabley's comments came while he told the "sad tale" of Falconer, 44, 
who was facing sentencing after pleading guilty to two drug 
trafficking and fraud convictions and had flunked out of the program.

Known as "Dag," Falconer came from a turbulent childhood filled with 
domestic violence and alcohol abuse. He had an equally difficult 
common-law relationship and amassed a long criminal record.

He trafficked in drugs for financial gain and to feed his addiction.

He was accepted into the drug treatment court in February 2015 after 
he was arrested months earlier for trafficking in methamphetamines. 
He appeared to be making "remarkable progress" to the point he almost 
graduated after attending weeks of rehab and relapse prevention programs.

However, Rabley noted that Falconer routinely lied to him and his 
counsellors. Every court appearance, he was asked by Rabley if had 
used drugs the preceding week. While he claimed abstinence, he failed 
drugs tests and later was caught by police trafficking in crystal meth.

In December 2015, after months of staying clean, he was seen making 
hand-to-hand drug transactions. He was arrested and was found to have 
14 grams of meth, 17 grams of marijuana, 100 dime bags, scales and 
$3,465 in cash.

Rabley pointed out the ongoing issues in the community and across 
North America with crystal meth that is "destroying the fabric of our 

"It is clear that Criminal Courts need to take a strong position when 
sentencing those who are involved in the sale of this drug and that a 
community strategy needs to be adopted to deal with unfortunate souls 
in the throws of their addiction to this drug," he wrote.

He said drug treatment courts are a solution. "It is clear to those 
who deal with these addicts on a regular basis that intensive therapy 
and counselling is needed and the 'traditional justice model' simply 
will not work when dealing with these individuals."

He sentenced Falconer to five years, a year longer than was requested 
by the Crown. He has 38 months left to serve.

"Economic gain was clearly the motivating factor. Those who would 
profit from the misery of others in cases like this much pay a price. 
In this case, the price will be a steep one."
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