Ipswich was the third court in Queensland to offer defendants facing criminal charges with the opportunity to participate in the Court Link program. Court Link is a program designed solely to address and overcome underlying causes behind criminal offending. This article explores the program in more detail to help understand how the program can assist defendants in a time of need.
WHAT IS COURT LINK?
Court Link is a therapeutic combined court assessment, referral and support program. It is designed to assist defendants on bail gain insight into and address the underlying causes behind offending behaviour. The program aims to connect participants with treatment and support services to minimise, as far as possible, the risk of re-offending.
Some of the most common areas that Court Link aims to address are:
- Drug and alcohol misuse
- Mental health issues
HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE IN COURT LINK?
While each defendant is assessed on a case by case basis, generally you be eligible if:
- You have been charged with an offence or offences in Ipswich, Brisbane, Southport or Cairns Magistrates Court (this can include both simple and serious offences)
- You are on bail
- You are not otherwise subject to supervised court orders (for example parole, probation or community service orders
Typically, participants are referred to Court Link by legal representatives, police, family members or a Magistrate. Participation in the program is however entirely voluntary.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, are on bail and require assistance dealing with personal issues, then you should make enquiries about participating in the program. Enquires can be made to any of the following persons:
- Your local court registry;
- A legal practitioner (including the duty lawyer); or
- Police prosecution.
Further information on how to make a referral to Court Link can be found on the Queensland Court’s website.
WHAT HAPPENS ONCE I AM REFERRED?
Once a referral has been made, a Court Link staff member will contact the referred person to arrange an initial assessment. The initial assessment aims to determine the level of service needed to address the person’s risks and needs. Each person is assessed on a case by case basis.
If you are deemed to be of a lower risk, you may be referred to an appropriate community-based service. This can include referrals to counsellors or drug or alcohol programs.
If you are deemed to be a moderate to high risk, you may be accepted into the case management program. This is a 12-week program aimed to assist the participant develop a case plan and strategies to overcome underlying problems. The program will help in linking participants to community-based services for support and ongoing assistance.
THE 12-WEEK PROGRAM
Generally, if a defendant is accepted into Court Link, a Magistrate will place a condition on the defendant’s bail requiring them to participate. Participation in the program is then monitored by the court regularly. At each court appearance, a Court Link representative provides updates to the Magistrate about a defendant’s progress. This allows the court to oversee the progress and provide guidance and encouragement to defendants to reach individual case plan goals.
At the conclusion of the 12-week program, Court Link representatives provide a final report to the court.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF COURT LINK?
Positive participation in the Court Link program is a factor in mitigation that a Magistrate can take into account when imposing a sentence on a defendant.
It is important to note, though, that you do not need to plead guilty to the charges before the Court in order to participate in the program. It is always advisable that defendants seek legal advice before indicating a plea of guilty to an offence.
We regularly assist with clients with referrals to the Court Link program through to finalisation of their charges after completing of the program.