Alcohol and Other Drugs | Motion

Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan) (14:47): I too rise to speak on Mr Grimley’s motion 590 about drug and alcohol recidivism. I thank Mr Grimley for bringing this motion to this house. As mentioned by my colleague Dr Kieu, I want to reiterate that the Andrews Labor government is committed to improving community safety and considering all approaches to strengthen our justice system’s responses. It is known that alcohol and drugs contribute towards many offences in our state. It is important for us to have effective and evidence-based programs that will help and support the people who are facing substance issue problems. If you are able to support the offenders and help them get better, they are less prone to offending in the future. Offences like driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs can have significant human and fiscal capital losses. Alcohol and drugs also contribute towards some family violence incidents.

The Andrews Labor government has a strong track record of targeting issues of drug and alcohol offending with innovative criminal justice approaches. We understand that technology can be used to provide improved monitoring capabilities. The government has considered electronic monitoring and SCRAM CAM technology—that is, secure, continuous, remote alcohol monitoring—to be a part of our response to the management of high-risk and recidivist offenders in the community. We are also delivering and expanding programs that assist members of our community to address their substance dependence, including programs specific to the criminal justice system.

I would like to talk a little bit about the Drug Court. The Drug Court is an alternative sentencing option for an accused with a history of entrenched offending and drug and/or alcohol use in cases where the offending has occurred under the influence of or to support substance use. The purpose of the Drug Court is to impose and administer an order called a drug and alcohol treatment order. In response to drug dependency and drug-related crimes the Drug Court of Victoria was set up as a multidisciplinary and multidepartmental approach. It emphasises a therapeutic response to these issues. It incorporates sanctions and rewards to assist offenders to address their dependence on drugs and other substances. Introduced in the Magistrates Court at Dandenong in 2002, the Drug Court was expanded to the Melbourne Magistrates Court in 2016. The court’s model looks to address the underlying factors that contribute to offending, providing participants with an opportunity to receive treatment and stay drug and crime free in the community. The Drug Court has been independently evaluated and shown to deliver cost-effective, positive outcomes for the community and participants through improvements in health and wellbeing for the participants.

Drug courts have been a comprehensive response to complex problems, and there are a range of challenges that offenders face when it comes to the use of substances. It is also difficult for many offenders to find stability and a path towards recovery without the support of a monitoring system. Health, welfare and educational services that work with the Drug Court give support services which help offenders get on the path to recovery. Building on these successes, the 2019–20 Victorian budget invested $35 million to facilitate the expansion of the Drug Court in the Magistrates Court to Ballarat and Shepparton. That funding will also enable a two-year pilot for the County Court Drug Court, which is due to commence this year.

We have also looked at addressing alcohol and other drugs issues through sentencing orders. Additional to the drug courts, other courts and decision-makers in Victoria can tailor sentencing orders to address an offender’s alcohol and other drugs dependence. Community correction orders—CCOs—can contain drug and alcohol monitoring or treatment conditions or both, which can be coupled with judicial monitoring conditions to enable court supervision of compliance. The community correction order is a flexible sentencing order that an offender serves in the community. A court can impose a community correction order on its own or in addition to imprisonment or a fine. Diversion programs for low-level offences can also require offenders to address issues such as drug or alcohol use.

The Labor government has made very significant investments and reforms across multiple budgets in order to improve community safety and ensure that offenders being managed in the community are appropriately supervised. We have also looked at post-sentence options for addressing a person’s alcohol and other drug issues after their sentence is completed. Secure, continuous, remote alcohol monitoring, SCRAM, is used for some offenders on parole and serious, violent or sex offenders on post-sentence supervision orders as a tool to provide 24/7 monitoring of alcohol abstinence conditions.

It is also important to talk about responses to drink driving in this motion. Drink driving and driving under the influence of drugs is a key issue in road safety that requires a tailored response. Alcohol interlock devices are a critical tool in targeting drink-driving offences and reducing road safety risk. An alcohol interlock is an electronic breath test device that prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects alcohol present. It records all breath tests and any attempt to drive with alcohol present on a person’s breath. This helps prevent people from driving after having alcohol. It removes the risk of a person driving under the influence when they are facing a substance problem. In 2018 we introduced other reforms that strengthened our response to drink driving.

The government recognises that alcohol and other drug treatments are not always a linear journey. Many people who use drugs or alcohol experience lapses and relapses along the road to overcoming issues of addiction and abuse. Alcohol and other drug use is a health issue which warrants a primarily health-based response. It has to be supported by harm minimisation strategies. Monitoring and compliance approaches can play an important role in engaging offenders with treatment. For that reason Corrections Victoria adopts an evidence-based, individualised and differentiated case management approach to support the unique needs of each offender.

Under support for alcohol and other drugs treatment and rehabilitation the Andrews Labor government is more than doubling the number of residential rehabilitation beds in Victoria from the 208 beds we inherited in 2014 to 502 beds as our investments are rolled out across the state, with more than half of these new beds in regional Victoria. Once all of our new beds are operational, over 1000 more Victorians each year will be able to access residential rehabilitation services. And we are well on our way, with 412 residential rehabilitation beds currently in operation across the state.

The Andrews Labor government is committed to putting victim-survivors at the heart of justice in Victoria. The voices of victim-survivors and their families are a powerful and important part of the justice system and play a critical role in this government. The Andrews Labor government is committed to reforming the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal to improve this critical service for victims of crime. That is why in the 2021–22 budget $54.6 million has been allocated to build the new financial assistance scheme, FAS, and improve services for victims.

I would like to conclude by just saying we are always looking to consider ways of reducing recidivism and making the community safer.