Pubdate: Mon, 21 June 1999
Source: Irish Times (Ireland)
Section: Letters to the editor
Copyright: 1999 The Irish Times
Contact:  Letters to Editor, The Irish Times, 11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407
Author: Ivana Bacik


Sir, - The recent announcement by the Minister for Justice supporting the
introduction of a pilot drugs courts scheme is most welcome. The proposed
scheme could represent a sorely needed change in the approach of our
criminal justice system, a move away from retribution to rehabilitation of
offenders. The aim of these courts is to offer young offenders a chance of
treatment and support to help them change their lives, in order to break the
cycle of drug-related crime and establish a place for them in society.

The concept of the drugs courts is also supported by Mr Justice Robert Barr,
High Court judge. Writing in the current issue of the Irish Criminal Law
Journal, he highlights the positive experience of the American drugs court
system, which has achieved success rates in excess of 75 per cent with young
offenders and a consequent reduction in drug-related crime. He also explains
the need for the establishment of residential centres which would work in
tandem with the drugs courts, by providing treatment and support to the most
disadvantaged and marginalised offenders.

Judge Barr's article and the Minister's recent announcement mark an
important recognition of the potential effectiveness of rehabilitative
measures in the prevention of re-offending, particularly among juveniles.
The proposed drugs courts are urgently needed. However, we also urgently
need the provision of in-house treatment facilities and ongoing support
structures for the most seriously marginalised young offenders in our
society. - Yours, etc.,

Ivana Bacik, Law School, Trinity College, Dublin 1.

- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D