Queensland Law Society

The vulnerable vetoed in court cuts

Date 14 Sep 2012
Contact Natalie Graeff, Manager Corporate Communication
Phone 07 3842 5868
Mobile 0488 433 884
Fax 07 3221 9329
Email n.graeff@qls.com.au

Queensland Law Society today expressed disappointment that the state government has decided to cut three courts critical to diverting vulnerable people from prison.

The government will close the Murri, Special Circumstances and the Drug courts, stating they expect to save $35.7 million over four years.

However Society president Dr John de Groot said the calculations may be based on a false economy.

“The outcome of this move may end up costing Queenslanders far more than the government’s expected savings,” Dr de Groot said.

“Looking at the results of the Drug Court alone, based on figures in the Magistrates Court of Queensland’s 2010/11 annual report, in the Court’s 11-year history, the community has been saved the cost of resources equivalent to 588 years of actual imprisonment time.

“In dollar terms, based on a conservative estimate of the cost of imprisonment of $200 per day per person, the money saved for taxpayers and the government by the Drug Court is in excess of $41million.

“Diversionary courts like the Murri, Special Circumstances and the Drug courts play an important role in rehabilitating offenders, reducing the rate of crime and creating considerable long-term cost savings for the community.

“Dollars aside, this move by the government also raises serious justice issues.

“It is more just, and more effective, for vulnerable people with specific needs to be treated with sensitivity and given appropriate help to address the causes of their offending behaviour, thereby reducing recidivism.

“This includes the homeless, people with mental health issues and those with drug problems.

“The Attorney-General has stated the Drug Court’s outcomes did not justify the resources or the funding it required to operate, and the Murri Court was not delivering consistent results and has not stopped recidivism in the short term.

“We would agree that there is no quick fix for mental health issues, rehabilitating those with drug dependencies or supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to break out of the cycle of crime.

“It takes time, perseverance, innovation and political will.

“We urge government to consult with relevant stakeholders who have great knowledge about the benefits of these diversionary courts before taking the drastic step of defunding them entirely.”