Twelve persons, 11 males and one female, are now being monitored by Barbados??? Drug Treatment Court, after it held its first session on January 14, at the Supreme Court of Barbados.

The Barbados Drug Treatment Court is a Magistrates??? Court, and persons charged with non-violent related offences, whose drug addiction or dependency is a factor in the commission of their crimes, are eligible to participate in the programme.

The case of each participant was reviewed during a pre-court meeting by a team comprising officials from the Probation Department, the Forensic Science Centre, the Treatment Providers, the Police Prosecutor and Defense Attorneys, and Chief Magistrate Pamela Beckles, who is presiding over the court. During that meeting, recommendations on how each individual participant should be treated were also discussed.

Following the session, which lasted just over an hour, participants were encouraged by Ms. Beckles to use the opportunity to turn their lives around and become productive members of society.The first formal sitting of the Court represented the culmination of three years of preparatory work by a multidisciplinary team of professionals within a Steering Committee.

That committee included representatives from the Bar Association; treatment providers at CASA and Verdun House; the Royal Barbados Police Force; the Probation Department; the Ministry of Health; the Forensic Science Centre; the Office of the Attorney General and the National Council on Substance Abuse.

The Drug Treatment Court initiative, supported by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States (OAS), has emerged as one alternative to incarceration that emphasises community-based substance abuse treatment and supervision of addicted non-violent criminal offenders.

The first formal session of the Barbados Drug Treatment Court was witnessed by Chief Justice, Sir Marston Gibson; Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite; and High Court Judge, Randall Worrell.

Also in attendance at the first sitting were High Commissioner of Canada to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Richard Hanley; Transnational Crime Specialist, Julie Heumphreus; Narcotic Affairs Officer of the Embassy of the United States of America, Robert McDonald; the Country Representative of the OAS, Ambassador Francis McBarnette, and several senior judicial officials.

The Barbados Drug Treatment Court will convene again on Wednesday, February 11.

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