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The draft bill for mandatory alcohol treatment outlining how the legislation will force problem drinkers into treatment has been unveiled.
Under the proposed law problem drinkers will appear before an Alcohol Mandatory Treatment Tribunal which can issue two types of orders:
Breaches of either order as well as supplying anybody on an order with alcohol will be offences under the act and carry the risk of a prison sentence. The bill comes with safeguards including independent decision making by a tribunal, the right of appeal, options for representation before the tribunal and order variations based on changed circumstances.
Some justice organisations in the Northern Territory have expressed concern over the legislation. Jonathan Hunyor of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) said some people may be held unnecessarily beyond an initial 72-hour assessment period outlined in the bill.
‘That can be extended by a further 72 hours, if that is required, and then it can take up to seven days for the tribunal to consider someone's case,' he said. ‘That leaves us with 13 days before someone actually gets to possibly argue their case as to why they shouldn't be put on a treatment order at all, and why they should be allowed to go free.'
The Northern Territory Government plans to treat up to 500 problem drinkers a year. A budget of $45 million has been allocated to set up and run the mandatory scheme for a year, with an average expenditure of $90,000 per problem drinker.
The Northern Territory Government is currently in discussion with private rehabilitation providers, including the Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programs Unit (CAAAPU) and others across the Northern Territory.
The legislation can be viewed and feedback provided on the Northern Territory Health Department website.
Source: The West and Northern Territory Department of Health