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AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) Diversion Program (WA)

The AOD Program is a free voluntary court diversion treatment intervention program available for eligible adults who have alcohol and/or other drug use problems and who are attending court for criminal or traffic-related offences in WA. Since January 2021, the AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) Diversion Program has been seeking referrals in the Magistrates Court. This program has replaced the presentence opportunity program (POP), the supervised treatment intervention regime STIR and the indigenous diversion program IDP.

What are the Benefits of the AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) Program?

This program allows the person attending court to:

  • Talk to a counsellor without shame or judgement;
  • Get support to manage stress and conflict;
  • Gain priority access to treatment;
  • Focus on their social and emotional wellbeing;
  • Look after their physical and mental health; and
  • Get help to explain their story to the court.

Who can Access the Program?

The AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) Diversion Program is a voluntary program available for persons who appear in court who:

  • Have entered a plea of guilty;
  • Do not have an extensive criminal record for serious offences;
  • Are not in court for sexual, drug trafficking or high-level violence offences;
  • Are not facing a mandatory prison sentence;
  • Are likely facing a fine, community-based order or an intensive supervision order;
  • Admit to using alcohol and/or illicit substances or illicit use of prescription medication;
  • Are eligible for or have been placed on bail; and
  • Are willing to participate in alcohol and other drug counselling.

The AOD program is designed for first offenders; however, people who have been in court before can also become eligible. In order to be eligible for this program, a plea of guilty must be entered and the likely sentence must be either a financial penalty or a court-based order. If the person has an extensive criminal record for serious offences, sexual offences, high-level violence or drug trafficking, they will not be found eligible for the program.

Referrals to the AOD Diversion Program

At the first court appearance, the person who has been charged with an offence can be referred to be assessed for eligibility to participate in the program.

An accused can be referred for an assessment by:

  • The magistrate;
  • A solicitor;
  • A police officer;
  • Community Corrections;
  • A family member or support person; or
  • By themselves.

How does the program work?

If the court accepts that a person should be referred for an assessment in the program, the magistrate may also grant bail at the first hearing with conditions and a Community Corrections Officer may also be involved in the matter.

When a person has been referred for assessment, they will speak with a Diversion Officer who will listen to their story, check that the program is suitable, make recommendations to the court and refer the person to a trained alcohol and other drug counsellor.

Once the assessment has been completed, the magistrate will review the Diversion Officer’s recommendations and will make a decision as to whether the person should participate in the program. If the magistrate accepts that the person should be referred to and participate in the program, the matter will be remanded for a period of 10 – 12 weeks in order to allow the person to access treatment, counselling and support in the community to address any alcohol or drug abuse issues and to develop positive strategies to encourage positive changes to their lifestyle.

The person will need to attend at least three sessions with a trained alcohol and other drugs counsellor who will provide the person with useful information, discuss treatment options, refer the person to other support services if needed and support them to make positive changes to their life.

What Happens at Sentencing?

During the remand period of 10 – 12 weeks, the person will continue receiving treatment and will return to the Magistrates Court for a review. At the review hearing, the Diversion Officer will provide the court with a summary of the person’s progress and participation in treatment for the magistrate to review.

If treatment has been completed, the magistrate may proceed with sentencing and will take the person’s participation in the program into account when imposing a penalty. If further treatment is recommended the person’s case may be remanded for a further period prior to returning for sentencing.

Is there Support for Family Members?

The Diversion Officer at the court can also refer family members, friends or support people of the person appearing in court to free support services so they can receive professional advice and useful information about AOD use and strategies to support them and manage stress. The Diversion Officers can refer people to services to allow them to talk about their situation privately, obtain professional advice and useful information as to how to best respond to the family member or friend, share coping and recovery strategies and talk to a trained volunteer with personal experience.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.  

April Jarmoszewicz - Solicitor - Perth

This article was written by April Jarmoszewicz - Solicitor - Perth

April Jarmoszewicz holds a Bachelor of Laws from Murdoch University and a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice from the College of Law. She is admitted to practise in the Supreme Court of Western Australia and in the High Court of Australia. April has a strong passion in Criminal Law and since her admission, has worked exclusively in Criminal Law. Prior...

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