Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua, the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment (AODT) Court, was established in Auckland and Waitākere as a pilot in November 2012. In 2019, the then Minister of Justice announced his intention to make the two pilot courts permanent and establish a third court in Waikato. In 2021, Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua ki Kirikiriroa was established at the Hamilton District Court.
The AODT Court aims to break the cycle of offending by treating the causes of that offending. It provides an alternative to imprisonment for people whose offending is being driven by alcohol and/or drug substance use disorders.
The AODT Court provides an evidence-based, best practice treatment pathway that includes intensive monitoring, case management, drug testing, and mentoring. Sentencing is deferred while participants work through the programme, which includes regular Court appearances to check on progress. The programme may take between one to two years to complete.
Participants who successfully complete the programme are recognised as AODT Court graduates and take part in a ceremony to celebrate their success, which their family and whānau and other supporters are invited to attend.
Following a participant’s successful completion of the programme and graduation, they are sentenced to a community-based, rather than custodial, sentence. This type of sentence also ensures continuing oversight from probation officers to check on recovery progress and ensure compliance with sentence conditions (such as ongoing drug testing) along with further oversight from the Judge during this period.
The AODT Court judge may withdraw (remove) a participant from the programme if they don’t comply with the programme’s requirements. At any stage, a participant can also choose to withdraw from the programme. In either situation, their case will proceed for sentencing following standard District Court processes.
The AODT Court has adapted international best practice principles appropriate for Aotearoa New Zealand. For example, the programme includes the integration of Māori cultural practices into Court processes, cultural advice and peer support. This approach has been shown to be transformative and achieve better outcomes for those taking part.
In June 2019, an AODT Court Outcomes Evaluation Report was published:
The report found that within two years after graduating from the Court, participants were less likely to offend, less likely to be in prison and less likely to be involved with Police services. Where subsequent offending occurred, it was likely to be less serious offending.
The report also found that participants who completed the AODT programme experienced improved relationships with whānau, improved health, and increased education, training and mahi opportunities.
There are three phases that participants work through during the AODT Court:
Throughout all phases of the Court programme, participants also attend recovery meetings and drug testing.
The AODT Court team is made up of the Police prosecutor, defence counsel, clinical case managers, peer support workers, the Pou Oranga (Māori cultural advisor with experience of wellness and substance use recovery), and probation officers, supported by a Court coordinator. The team, led by the judge, works collaboratively to support participants while still holding them accountable for their offending by requiring them to address its underlying causes. Further information about each team member’s role is outlined below.
Ensuring public safety is a central focus of the AODT Court. The Police prosecutor’s role includes informing the Court of victims’ views and providing relevant information about the participant.
The role of the defence lawyer is to provide services that advocate for and represent participants to ensure their rights are protected.
Clinical case managers coordinate the treatment programme tailored for participants to address their alcohol and/or drug dependency issues and provide a recovery programme. They regularly report back to the AODT Court team as to how participants are progressing with their treatment.
Peer support workers have lived experience of recovery (and frequently also have experience of the criminal justice system) and provide mentoring and support to participants while they’re working through the AODT Court programme. They are also an important part of team discussions about participants’ progress.
The Pou Oranga has expertise in te reo Māori and tikanga, along with experience of substance use recovery and wellness. Their role involves role modelling and providing advice to the team and to the Court on how to engage with Māori participants, while also ensuring that kaupapa Māori principles are included in the Court process and treatment plan.
Specialist probation officers represent Ara Poutama Aotearoa – Department of Corrections. They attend pre-Court meetings and determination hearings, facilitate graduates’ transition to the Probation Service, and proactively manage graduates’ community-based sentences, where continued focus is on ensuring they maintain activities that support their recovery.
The Court co-ordinator helps manage relationships and the flow of information between external stakeholders and the AODT Court team, including overseeing drug testing results.
The whānau support worker is a new role at Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua ki Kirikiriroa. It is intended to support families and whānau of participants, especially when they attend the AODT Court. They will also facilitate family and whānau conferences as needed.
Wherever possible, New Zealand Police contacts the victim to hear their views and make this information available to the AODT Court at the pre-Court team meeting. This is held before the defendant appears at the AODT Court determination hearing.
Once the participant is in the AODT Court, the victim’s views can be presented by AODT Court Police Prosecutors. The victim advisors and New Zealand Police (in line with the Victims’ Rights Act 2002) manage the flow of victim information to the criminal court from the first appearance of the defendant until sentencing.
Victims and people affected by crime committed by an AODT Court participant can:
Further information for victims can be found in the information sheet below:
The role of whānau and friends is central to recovery. They can help people experiencing addiction to find new connections that are not centred around alcohol and drug use – this can include just spending time enjoying activities together without using alcohol or other drugs.
However, supporting recovery is not always easy and people need to be able to look after themselves as well. They need to set some boundaries around what support they’re willing and able to provide and some expectations around behaviour (for example, only spending time together if they’re sober).
Whānau and friends of AODT Court participants are actively encouraged to:
What are the aims of the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court?
The AODT Court is designed to be consistent with international best practice1 and to supervise offenders whose offending is driven by addiction to alcohol or other drugs. The Court provides judicial oversight of participants’ engagement in treatment programmes and rehabilitation support services.
1 Carey SM, Mackin JR & Finigan MW. (2012). What works? The ten key components of drug Court: research-based best practices. In: National Drug Court Institute. 2012. Best Practices in Drug Courts. Drug Court Review, Vol VIII, Issue I. Alexandria, Virginia.
Who might be eligible for the AODT Court?
To be eligible for Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua, the applicant must:
For Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua in Auckland/ Waitākere, the applicant must also:
For Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua ki Kirikiriroa in Hamilton, the applicant must also:
Why are some people not eligible for AODT Courts?
Meeting all the eligibility criteria doesn’t necessarily mean that applicants will be offered a place in the AODT Court.
Applicants may not be accepted into the Court if:
These safeguards reflect best practices from international research and help ensure there are suitable treatment pathways for participants.
What are the expectations of participants while in the AODT Court?
Participants of the AODT Court are expected to:
A short video, navigator guide and factsheets about how the AODT Court operates can found on the AODT Court Resources page.
The AODT Court has been the subject of several evaluations since it began operating in November 2012. Links to these can be found below.