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Specialty courts in Australia : report to the Criminology Research Council

Abstract

This report has been compiled as an exploratory review of specialty court programs operating in Australia. It aims to document the establishment, operation and effectiveness of these programs in an effort to improve understanding about where they exist, how they function and whether they are successful. This review was supported by a national audit of specialty court programs conducted in conjunction with each Australian state and territory and the Criminology Research Council. The audit identified 19 programs operating across Australian as at 31 December 2004. Of these: nine were developed for dealing with drug-dependent offenders; six were developed as alternative sentencing options for Indigenous offenders; three were established for dealing with the incidence and perpetrators of family and domestic violence; and one program targeted offenders with a mental impairment. The report is presented in five sections. The first section explores and discusses the establishment of Australian specialty court programs identified in the national audit. It examines the chronological development, location, objectives and eligibility criteria that predominate amongst specialty courts in general. Section two discusses access and eligibility issues. It analyses demographic issues, offence and offender profiles, the legal and judicial environment in which the courts are located and other factors which affect access to specialty courts. These include whether participation is voluntary, and the effect of drugs and mental health issues on an offender's access to, and eligibility for, specialty court programs. Section three presents a typology of specialty courts in Australia. Section four presents a case study exploration of the methods and procedures which characterise a generalised model of speciality courts. Finally, section five describes the evaluation of specialty courts. It includes an examination of how evaluations were done and a discussion about the results.

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