Drug use is plaguing the stability of the Cayman Islands.
That was the message from Minister for Health Anthony Eden at the opening session of training for Cayman’s Drug Rehabilitation Court Tuesday.
More than 100 professionals who can affect the lives of drug addicts and offenders whose habit leads them to commit other crimes attended the three-day training.
Mr. Justice Paul Bentley, the judge who began the drug treatment court concept in Canada eight years ago, led the programme at the Marriott Resort.
Because the country’s stability is at stake, people have no choice but to work together to deal with that problem, Mr. Eden said.
The variety of professions present emphasised that point. Magistrates, lawyers, probation officers and counsellors typically deal with drug-related offences in court.
For the training programme they were joined by Police, Prison and Customs officers, court staff and Justices of the Peace.
Community partners attending included representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, service clubs, Cayman Against Substance Abuse, National Drug Council and ministers of religion.
Also represented were government ministries, the Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Labour Relations.
Drug rehab courts combine the coercive authority of the judicial system with treatment provided by medical and social workers, explained Kevin Wilson, Senior Crown Counsel with the Federal Prosecution Service in Toronto.
Mr. Wilson is one of four presenters working with Mr. Justice Bentley in this training programme.
He referred to the concept as drug treatment court. Cayman legislation, passed in September 2006, refers to drug rehabilitation courts. But the aim is the same.
As Attorney General Sam Bulgin put it in his welcoming remarks, such a court will focus on treatment and rehabilitation of drug users, thereby reducing the level of crime that results from their drug use.
Mr. Bulgin said that as soon as administrative procedures are put in place and personnel trained, the Drug Rehabilitation Court Law will come into force by order of the Governor in Cabinet.
Chief Justice Anthony Smellie opened the training sessions by thanking presenters for coming to share their wisdom and experience.
He reminded participants that the concept of a drug rehab court in Cayman has been evolving since a Sentencing Advisory Committee began meeting 1998 – 2000.
He noted that Mr. Justice Bentley came here in 2002 to train participants in putting the concept into a practical context.
The Summary Courts in recent years have been using a modified drug court approach of extended supervision through the defendant’s frequent court attendance and interaction with counsellors and probation officers.
The first day of training addressed general concepts of addiction and 12 key principles for a successful drug treatment court.
On Wednesday, participants learned about the roles of the various members of a court team and the informal manner in which they meet to deal with clients.
Thursday’s schedule called for an examination of lessons learned from the Toronto and Vancouver courts and the specific steps to making a drug rehab court operational.
Along with Mr. Justice Bentley and Mr. Wilson, the presenters were Shellie Addley, Criminal Duty Counsel in the Toronto Drug Treatment Court; Shelina Shivji, Probation Court Liaison for the Toronto Drug Treatment Court; and David MacIntyre, programme coordinator for the Drug Court Treatment and Resource Centre in Vancouver.