Initial evaluation of Youth Drug Court released

  • Phil Goff

Justice Minister Phil Goff today released a report on the initial evaluation of the Youth Drug Court pilot in Christchurch.

Mr Goff said the report showed a decline in the drug and alcohol abuse and offending levels of participants, with around two thirds of the 30 young offenders having a lower level of offending, and seven having no further charges at all against them. Just under a third continued to offend at higher rates.

The Youth Drug Court pilot was established by the Taskforce on Youth Offending in 2002. It was an initiative of Youth Court Judge John Walker, who sought to address the linkage between alcohol and drug use and offending.

"The Youth Drug Court is modelled on similar courts in Australia and the United States, with its target group being recidivist youth offenders aged 14 to 16, whose offending is linked with drug and alcohol dependency," Mr Goff said.

"These are young people at the hard end of youth offending, destined to a life of crime and imprisonment unless successful interventions can be found to turn their lives around.

"International experience suggests that some but not all such offenders do respond positively to intense monitoring and to addressing their issues in a coordinated and holistic way.

"What happens with the pilot will take into account its final evaluation which will follow up the progress of the 30 young people 12 months after they have left the programme.

"The current report is a process evaluation, looking at the operation of the Court over its first 18 months. The report found the Court provided significant improvements in a range of areas. This resulted in more efficient identification of problems, improved timeliness for dealing with cases and providing treatment, systematic and better collaboration between agencies and better consistency in response to offenders.

"Inevitably this involves greater investment of resources. A cost-benefit analysis of the court will be undertaken following final evaluation, and will be taken into account when considering future options.
"On the initial evaluation, 22 of the 30 young people on the pilot had either stopped or reduced their alcohol or other drug use when they left the Youth Drug Court.

"The rate of offending while attending the Youth Drug Court was lower for 19 (68 per cent) youths, with seven of the 19 accumulating no further charges. Nine youths (32 per cent) offended at a higher rate.

"The average rate of offending for the 19 reduced by around two-thirds, from 9.4 offences per year to 3.4. For those who offended at a higher rate, eight committed offences of lower seriousness while one committed offences of equal seriousness.

"Given that the offenders were hard-end recidivists, these results indicate significant improvement. However, the final evaluation will demonstrate whether or not improvements can be sustained over time.

"This will help determine whether or not, and in what form, the Youth Drug Court may continue to operate," Mr Goff.

The Youth Drug Court evaluation is available at