Dáil Éireann - Volume 541 - 03 October, 2001

Written Answers. - Drug Courts.

134. Mr. Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide for the siting of drug courts outside Dublin; and the number of new cases which have to date been dealt with in the Dublin court. [22291/01]

929. Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide for the siting of drug courts outside Dublin; and the number of new cases which have to date been dealt with in the Dublin court. [22277/01]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 929 together.

The 1997 Programme for Government included, in the context of measures to combat the drugs problem, the creation of a drug courts system which would involve court supervised treatment programmes for less serious drug related offences.

Following the report of the working group on a courts commission and also the report of the expert drug court planning committee, which I established, the pilot drug court programme was launched in the Dublin District Court on 9 January 2001 and the first sitting took place on 16 January. The court sits on Tuesday and Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Richmond courthouse and each sitting is preceded by a meeting of the drug court team and the judge. I understand that, as of 1 October 2001, 41 persons have been referred to the drug court from the Dublin District Court.

The drug court pilot programme marks a major policy initiative in the criminal justice system and is designed to test this important alternative measure for dealing with less serious and non-violent drug offenders. The pilot programme, which will be run for a period of 18 months, is [210] being evaluated by expert consultants who were appointed following a public procurement process. The success of the pilot programme depends on the development of an integrated cross service strategic plan involving court supervised treatment programmes. The merit of implementing a drug court programme outside Dublin will be considered following the completion and evaluation of the pilot project in Dublin.