Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court


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:

Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court Outcomes Evaluation 2018-19: Summary Evaluation Report

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.

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How does the AODT Court work for participants?

There are three phases that participants work through during the AODT Court:

  • Phase 1: Participants settle into the Court’s programme and start their recovery journey. They do this by engaging in alcohol and other drug treatment, either residential treatment (live-in) or a community-based programme.
  • Phase 2: Participants continue their treatment plan and receive support as they rebuild their lives by attending other programmes depending on their needs (such as counselling, stopping violence, parenting, road safety, literacy). They’re held to account for their offending by attending restorative justice (where agreed to by victims) and completing voluntary community service mahi.
  • Phase 3: Participants complete their treatment plan and develop an ongoing maintenance plan with their Case Manager. Participants begin reintegrating into the community by finding suitable mahi or study, accommodation and positive activities that will support them in their life after leaving the AODT Court programme.

Throughout all phases of the Court programme, participants also attend recovery meetings and drug testing.

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Roles within the AODT Court

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.

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How are victims supported?

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.

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How can victims be involved in the AODT Court process?

Victims and people affected by crime committed by an AODT Court participant can:

  • attend open AODT Court hearings, including the sentencing
  • give their views to the AODT Court on the defendant’s suitability for the AODT Court programme
  • apply to read their Victim Impact Statement at sentencing
  • choose to be involved in a restorative justice conference with the participant (where available and appropriate)
  • be kept informed about the participant’s progress through the AODT Court
  • be informed about entitlement to financial reparation or help.

Further information for victims can be found in the information sheet below:

Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court - Information for Victims [PDF, 168 KB]

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How can whānau and friends support AODT Court participants?

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:

  • listen and offer encouragement and support
  • help with transport (for example, to and from Court, drug testing appointments, treatment programmes and recovery meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous)
  • attend the AODT Court to support their whānau member/friend
  • support participants to comply with their bail conditions
  • support participants to comply with the requirements of the AODT Court
  • help participants to avoid situations where they’re likely to encounter opportunities to use alcohol and drugs.

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Frequently Asked Questions about the AODT Court

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:

  • be aged 17 years or over
  • be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident
  • be likely to have an alcohol and/or other drug substance use disorder (active addiction for alcohol and/or other drug use) that is driving their offending
  • not appear to have a serious medical or serious mental health condition (other than an alcohol and/or other drug substance use disorder) that would prevent meaningful participation in the AODT Court
  • have resolved all active charges or is currently in the process of doing so
  • have a ROC*ROI (Risk of Re-conviction x Risk of Re-imprisonment) score (as defined by Ara Poutama Aotearoa, Department of Corrections) which is considered generally within the range of 0.5 – up to, but not including, 0.9 (exceptions to this include where the defendant is being charged with their third or subsequent drink driving offence in the aggravated form - these defendants can still be considered)
  • be willing to take part in the AODT Court and able to attend programme sessions, which could include residential treatment, and attend AOD testing, and other requirements.

For Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua in Auckland/ Waitākere, the applicant must also:

  • reside in the Auckland or Waitākere District Court catchment areas
  • be facing charges at one of the following courts: Auckland District Court or Waitākere District Court.

For Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua ki Kirikiriroa in Hamilton, the applicant must also:

  • reside in the Hamilton District Court catchment area or, if the defendant does not live in the Hamilton District Court catchment area, there is confidence that the defendant has supports in place (i.e. access to transport) to meaningfully participate in the Hamilton AODT Court
  • be facing charges at one of the following courts: Hamilton District Court, Huntly District Court, Te Awamutu District Court, Morrinsville District Court, Thames District Court or Te Kuiti District Court.

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:

  • they have serious mental or medical health issues that may prevent their successful participation
  • their only active charges are breaches of a sentence or court order
  • they are currently facing charges relating to sexual violence or serious violence, arson, or Category 4-related offending (or have previously been convicted of one of these types of offending).

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:

  • appear at the AODT Court regularly as directed (usually every 2-4 weeks) to be accountable for their progress in the programme
  • comply with their bail conditions and the treatment and other requirements of the AODT Court
  • show a willingness to take part in treatment and other supports offered by the Court
  • be drug tested and/or wear an alcohol-monitoring bracelet as required by the Court
  • be honest and open with the Court
  • behave in a way that brings mana to themselves and to the Court.

Further information

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.

Formative Evaluation for the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court Pilot (2014)

Final Process Evaluation for the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court (2016)

Report Back on the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court Pilot and other AOD related Initiatives Paper (2017)

Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court Outcomes Evaluation 2018-19: Summary Evaluation Report (2019)

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