New Dundalk judge wants to set up first ever 'drugs court' in this region

New Dundalk judge wants to set up first ever 'drugs court' in this region

A newly appointed judge for County Louth has said he would like to set up the first 'drugs court' in the North East.

Judge John Coughlan is now the permanent sitting judge at Dundalk and Drogheda district court.

Wednesday was the first time Judge Coughlan sat in his official capacity as the new sitting judge in Dundalk. He referred a number of defendants to the Drugs Court in Dublin and said he would like to set up the first such court in the North East.

The Drug Treatment Court Programme - currently operates from Green Street courthouse, the former home of the Special Criminal Court.

It's aimed at people with drug addiction problems who come before the District Court on minor criminal charges linked to their drug addiction and who plead guilty or have been convicted of them.

There is a short assessment phase and those chosen to participate are people who are serious about wanting to tackle their drug habit and undergo treatment.

Those who qualify must be over 17 years of age and live in Dublin.

The Drug Treatment Court is supported by a team including a drug treatment court co-ordinator, a liaison nurse, a probation officer, and an education coordinator.

At the induction stage potential participants meet the members of the team and are assessed to determine their suitability for the programme.

A participant can opt to try to detoxify in the community or in hospital or go drug free, or take methadone maintenance or methadone reduction.

They reach agreement about their treatment with the team, attend counselling and group work, and will be required to take part in education or other programmes in the community to acquire new skills or improve skills they may already have.

As part of the programme, participants must abstain from their main drug of choice upon admission, and further tests are carried out as they continue through the three phases involved.

Decisions on the participants' success at each phase, is made by the judge based on information provided by the team.

The court service says depending on individual needs and motivation, the programme can last at least a year but participants must make sufficient progress to ensure that they move through the phases in less than 12 months.

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