County Court Drug and Alcohol Treatment Court Pilot

County Court Drug and Alcohol Treatment Court Pilot

The Justice Legislation Amendment (Drug Court and Other Matters) Act 2020 (Vic) came into force on the 26 April 2021. This established a Drug Court Division at the County Court of Victoria (CCV DATC).  

The CCV DATC is a therapeutic court that takes an active role in supporting participants to address their drug and/or alcohol dependency with the aim of helping them to get their lives back on track and minimise future contact with the justice system.   

The creation of the CCV DATC provides clients who would benefit from intensive support to address drug or alcohol dependency, with the opportunity to access a specialist therapeutic program. 

New drug and alcohol treatment order 

A drug and alcohol treatment order is a custodial sentence  that is served in the community whilst the participant undergoes treatment and supervision. A DATO is available where the participant meets the legislative criteria and has plead guilty to the relevant offence(s).  

People placed on a DATO are required to participate in an intensive three phase program of treatment and supervision. Phase one of the order requires clients to attend weekly appointments, drug and alcohol testing and review hearings. These appointments, testing and review hearings reduce in frequency to fortnightly and monthly as a client successfully progresses on their DATO. 

Completing the order is challenging – with weekly Court review hearings for the first phase of the order.  

Each participant is supported by a multidisciplinary team that includes the Judge, Clinical Advisors, Case Managers and Alcohol and Other Drug Counsellors.  

The order is regulated by a framework of sanctions and rewards that are intended to encourage compliance and ongoing participation.  

In addition to drug and alcohol treatment, participants are assisted to obtain other supports such as stable housing, employment, education and training and mental health supports, to improve their general well-being.  

Referring clients for a DATO 

Defence practitioners can refer clients to the CCV DATC from the Magistrates’ Court and will represent the client at the Determination (plea) and Judgment (sentence) hearings. The usual County Court plea and sentence fees are payable for those appearances. A mention fee is available for any directions hearings listed in the process. 

Once a client is placed on a DATO they will be represented by Victoria Legal Aid's specialist team who will represent the client at the case conferences and review hearings for the duration of their order. This will support the provision of consistent and specialist therapeutic legal services to clients on DATOs. It will also assist with building and maintaining the necessary relationships across the multidisciplinary team, which are an integral part of the Drug Court model. 

If your client has an upcoming hearing to cancel their DATO and would like you to represent them at the hearing of the Application, the Victoria Legal Aid legal team will contact you and will send you the necessary paperwork. If the Application to Cancel is refused and your client remains on the DATO, they continue to be represented by the Victoria Legal Aid legal team for their case conference and reviews for the remainder of the Order. If the Application to Cancel is granted, your client will be sentenced by the CCV DATC Judge.  

If your client is eligible to graduate from their DATO, the Victoria Legal Aid team will notify you of the graduation date so you can attend if you would like to.  

Information about the eligibility criteria and the CCV DATC referral form and process can be found on the County Court website.  

Fees for Drug and Alcohol Treatment Court Pilot 

Victoria Legal Aid is committed to the success of therapeutic courts and has introduced an additional CCDATC Directions Hearing fee to enable the court to determine eligibility for the Drug Court pilot. The other hearings involved in the CC DATC process will also be covered using existing fee arrangements.  These arrangements will be reviewed once the CCV DATC has been in operation for 6 months. Feedback from the profession is welcomed.  

Hearing/activity

Total fee

How to apply

CCDATC Directions Hearing  

$270

Table E - Plea grant

Determination Hearing (plea) –preparation  

$510 

Table E - Plea grant  

Determination Hearing (plea) – appearance  

$1651 

Table E - Plea grant 

Judgement (Sentence) – appearance  

$323 

Table E - Plea grant 

Sentence appeal advice  

$294 

Table E - Plea grant 

Case Conferences and Review Hearings  

$0 

Will be handled by Victoria Legal Aid’s therapeutic team 

Application to Cancel – preparation  

$923 

Table J - Breach proceedings   

Application to Cancel – appearance  

$979 

Table J - Breach proceedings   

Application to Cancel – determination  

$323 

Table J - Breach proceedings   

More information 

If you have comments or questions about the pilot, please contact: 

  • Naomi Newbound (Senior Lawyer – County Court Victoria Drug and Alcohol Treatment Court) – naomi.newbound@vla.vic.gov.au or (03) 9267 0492.

Victoria Legal Aid ran training about the new DATC on 27 May. View the recording and materials from that session.

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