Pubdate: Fri, 08 Jul 2016
Source: Telegram, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2016 The Telegram
Author: Rosie Mullaley
Page: A3


Federal government contributes $30,000 for study to see if drug
treatment court in NL can be viable

In the 26 years he has been in practice, St. John's lawyer John Duggan
has represented many drug-addicted criminals

"I would say that 80 per cent of the people I dealt with in my career
had some sort of substance-abuse problem," Duggan said.

That's why he was so thrilled by Thursday's announcement that the
federal government will fund a project to determine the viability of a
drug treatment court in this province.

"It's very exciting news," said Duggan, who runs his own practice
after working at the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission.
"This is desperately needed here." The announcement was made by St.
John's East MP Nick Whalen during a news conference in Courtroom No. 7
at provincial court in St. John's.

Whalen said the federal government will allocate $30,000 to see if
such a court would be feasible in this province.

"Our government understands that it's critically important that our
criminal justice system be flexible - flexible enough to help those
with drug dependencies turn their lives around," said Whalen, who was
representing federal Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody

"By diverting some of these cases away from the regular court system
and into drug treatment courts, non-violent offenders with drug
dependencies can get the help they need to break the cycle of abuse,
drug use and repeat offences."

He said the drug treatment court will give offenders an alternative to
incarceration by providing them with court-monitored substance-abuse
treatment, judicial supervision, random and frequent drug testing,
incentives and sanction, clinical case management and social services

"We hope we can address the factors that inspired criminal behaviour
in the first place and perhaps reduce an offender's interactions with
the criminal justice system," said Whalen, adding that some studies
have shown two-thirds of crimes are committed by people with
substance-abuse issues.

Lauren Chafe, deputy provincial director of legal services for Legal
Aid, knows all too well the need to address the drug problem here.

"This is the first step in breaking the chain of addiction that
plagues the criminal justice system," said Chafe, who pointed out they
have had several consultations with the provincial justice minister
about this issue in the past. "This is certainly good news."

Provincial Justice Minister Andrew Parsons said drug treatment courts
have been working well for years in other provinces, and he believes
it will in this province as well.

"I've long been an advocate for therapeutic courts," Parsons

"Undoubtedly, the nature of crime in our province has changed in
recent years and we're no longer as isolated as we once were. We're
hearing in the news daily stories about armed robberies, drug
trafficking, serious incidents in both urban and rural Newfoundland
and Labrador.

"This results in considerable resources being expended in virtually
every aspect of the justice system, including our courts, policing and

He said community support for the new court will be needed by those in
various departments of the provincial government, Legal Aid, the
judiciary, health and community services, and the federal and
provincial Crowns.

"This is just the first step," he said, "but it's obviously an
important one."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt