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Northern Territory Magistrates Courts

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Specialist Courts

The Northern Territory Magistrates’ Court operates two specialist courts:

  • The Substance Misuse Assessment and Referral for Treatment Court (SMART Court) utilises principles of therapeutic jurisprudence and seeks to address underlying causes of offending that relate to misuse of alcohol and other drugs. 
  • Community Courts harness the cultural strengths and influences of Indigenous communities and embraces principles of restorative justice.


The SMART Court hears criminal matters where the offender has committed an offence and has a history of serious substance misuse. The SMART Court is able to issue bans on the consumption of alcohol or drugs and will make SMART orders as a condition of sentence or deferred sentence (bail) after a person is found guilty of an offence.  The SMART orders will include treatment and other relevant conditions which will form the basis of case management and supervision by a Court Clinician for a period of no less than 6 months.

A criminal matter which is being heard in the Magistrates Court or the Youth Justice Court may be referred to the SMART Court by the Court, a prosecutor, a police officer or the eligible offender.  An eligible offender may be referred to the SMART Court for a mandatory assessment, however once the assessment is completed, the offender has a choice whether to participate in the SMART Court program.

The SMART Court refers an eligible offender for clinical assessment by a Court Clinician prior to making a SMART Order.  A Court Clinician is a professional person with the appropriate qualifications and experience to assess people for misuse of a substance.

The SMART Court has the power to:

  • defer sentencing of an offender for a minimum of six months and a maximum of 12 months and make a SMART Order. The offender is granted bail on condition that he or she complies with bail conditions and the SMART Order; or
  • sentence the offender to a period of imprisonment in accordance with the Sentencing Act or the Youth Justice Act, and make a SMART Order for the offender. The execution of the sentence of imprisonment is then suspended for a minimum six months and maximum 12 months on condition that the offender complies with the SMART Order during the period of suspension.

The SMART Court monitors the progress of an offender on a SMART Order. 

If the offender is progressing well under the SMART Order the Court may confer rewards, including:

  • reduction in frequency of counselling, treatment or other intervention;
  • a decrease in surveillance by Correctional Services or supervision.

If an offender does not maintain a satisfactory level of compliance with the order, sanctions may be imposed, including:

  • a change of condition to increase the frequency or types of counselling, treatment or other intervention services received;
  • an increase in the frequency of testing for alcohol or drugs;
  • imposing a condition that the offender be detained (for a youth) or imprisoned (for an adult) for up to 14 days.

At the completion of the SMART Order, the offender appears before the SMART Court to be sentenced, or for reconsideration of their suspended sentence.

An offender may at any time after a SMART Order is made, ask the Court to revoke the Order.  The final decision on whether a SMART Order will be revoked rests with the SMART Court.  If the SMART Order is revoked or cancelled before completion, the offender must appear before the SMART Court to be sentenced.

The SMART Court has replaced the Alcohol Court and the CREDIT (NT) programs which operated up to 30 June 2011. 

For further information see:

Information for participants

Information for treatment providers

Guidelines - rewards and sanctions