New legislation would see Australians caught in possession of drugs handed a $400 fine rather than a court date in a massive overhaul to the current legal system.
New South Wales Attorney-General Mark Speakman proposed the scheme which comes off the back of recommendations from the Special Commission of Inquiry Into Ice, released in 2020.
The AG said he was ‘disappointed’ the state government hadn’t taken any advice from the $10million inquiry and put his voice behind alternative methods to addressing the country’s illicit drug problem.
Mr Speakman outlined a plan that put the honus on police to decide whether to hand out $400 penalties for people caught in possession of drugs in a ‘pre-cour drug diversion scheme’.
He said offenders should be given up to two infrigement notices, with fines to be waived if they undertook health intervention programs.
New legislation would see Australians caught in possession of drugs handed a $400 fine rather than a court date in a massive overhaul to the current legal system
The $400 fee he offered is higher than the penalty a first-time offender would see if they went to court – saying his idea is ‘not soft on drug use’.
‘Such a scheme would be connecting drug users with appropriate health treatment,’ Mr Speakman said.
‘An infringement notice scheme was backed by former Police Commissioner Mick Fuller in his submission to the Ice Inquiry and also by, for example, former Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.
‘It is more modest than Ice Inquiry recommendation 12 which suggested three notices.’
New South Wales Attorney-General Mark Speakman (pictured) proposed the scheme which comes off the back of recommendations from the Special Commission of Inquiry Into Ice
Former premier Gladys Berejiklian’s war on drugs saw her ‘close the door’ on pill testing despite a spate of overdoses and deaths at festivals.
Then-deputy state coroner Harriet Grahame handed down a report that recommended the use of pill testing, but instead Ms Berejiklian ignored the advice and sent more police officers to monitor music events.
The Attorney-General said his new approach was ‘hardly radical’ but instead a necessary step forward given previous leglisation has done little to discourage young people from taking drugs.
‘We already have an infringement notice scheme in place for drugs at music festivals, but without health interventions,’ he said.
‘Severe penalties for supply and trafficking would remain in place. I welcome Cabinet debate of this and other ways to tackle the scourge of illicit drugs in our communities.’
The Attorney-General said his new approach was ‘hardly radical’ but instead a necessary step forward
Matt Noffs, the CEO of Australia’s largest drug and alcohol treatment service for people under 25 the Noffs Foundation, welcomed the change in tact from Mr Speakman.
‘The NSW AG should firstly be congratulated on proposing changes to our drug laws,’ he said in a statement.
‘It’s quite obvious to every family, to every police officer, to every social worker and even for politicians that our drug laws are an abysmal failure. The AG’s proposed changes are a step forward but do not go far enough. It is time to think big.’
Mr Noffs pointed to the injecting room in Kings Cross and pill testing in ACT as trials that have been successfully rolled out and encouraged lawmakers to continue to think outside the box when it came to drugs.
‘Locking kids up for experimenting is not only a waste of money but a waste of life. Locking kids up transforms them into criminals and often for life,’ Mr Noffs said.
‘Recidivism rates are tragic. Yes, treatment is cheaper and works and our laws need to support easier pathways to it. We can’t imprison our way out of drug problems.’