The purpose of providing for Specialist Courts within the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria is to improve outcomes for persons presenting at the Court as well as for the community. The participants in these courts generally present with one or more underlying issues including social or cultural disadvantage, mental health, disability or substance abuse.
Specialist Courts are also a response to the revolving door nature of crime and punishment and, as such, are an attempt to address the pre-existing issues that may have led to offending or other anti-social behaviour.
The Specialist Courts within the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria are generally less formal and more flexible than a traditional Magistrates’ Court, and are designed to make the participants more comfortable, therefore encouraging greater compliance and responsiveness to the court orders that are imposed.
A Specialist Court attempts to take a more individualised and service-focussed approach to the sentencing of special needs groups and provides a more realistic method of justice for these groups, in contrast to the often dispassionate approach of a traditional Magistrates’ Court.