No help for drink-drivers

TWEED Heads, the region with the worst drink-driving figures in New South Wales, no longer has a "Sober Driving" program to help repeat drink-drivers reform.

Tweed Heads and Murwillumbah local court Magistrate Jeff Linden launched into an angry tirade in the court room twice in two days this week because he could not send a pair of repeat drink-drivers to the course.

The Tweed used to have a Sober Driving program until last month, when the Murwillumbah Probation and Parole office was shut down and its workload moved to Lismore.

The closest Sober Driving course is now in Byron Bay.

Mr Linden said his court had been almost fanatical in its campaign to keep the town's parole office, and he had identified the problems that would occur with its closure.

Mr Linden was forced to look at cases yesterday and on Tuesday "in a different light" when he was not able to send two repeat drink-drivers to the Sober Driving program because without their licences and with little public transport it was a logistical impossibility for them to attend the course.

Mr Linden said it was in the public interest that drink-drivers be able to attend the program.

On the day of the office's closure, when asked whether the Tweed would retain all its existing services, a spokesperson said: "Yes, and the Department of Corrective Services believes services will be improved".

Retired parole-office worker Gale Richter, who was at the Murwillumbah office for 30 years, said the program had reduced reoffending.

"It was a very worthwhile program and the outcomes were positive," Mrs Richter said.

She said Mr Linden would refer people to the program and would be kept informed weekly. If an offender failed they would be back before the court, but Mrs Richter said 99 per cent of people completed the course.

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