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Just 7.5% of people caught with drugs diverted to health services instead of court under failed new laws: Greens

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
23 June 2024

New data obtained from NSW Police show that the Minns Government’s one area of drug policy reform has failed, with less than one in 10 people caught using or possessing a personal quantity of illegal drugs, being issued with a $400 fine instead of being charged, says Greens MP and Drug Law Reform & Harm Reduction spokesperson Cate Faehrmann.

The data, reported in today’s Sun Herald, obtained via Questions on Notice, show that since the Early Drug Detection Initiative (EDDI) came into force on 29 February 2024 through to 25 May, just 275 people have been diverted, while 3404 others were charged with low-level drug possession and issued a court attendance notice. Of the 275 people diverted into EDDI only 25 people have completed a health intervention.

The data also show that in the 3 months since the new laws have been in operation, 1247 people were charged with using or possessing ice while just 60 people were issued with a fine and diverted into the EDDI. Comparatively, 258 people caught with cocaine were charged  and 99 issued a fine. This means that more than 95% of people caught possessing or using ice were sent to court instead of being given the option of accessing health services compared to 73% of cocaine users.

“When announcing this initiative in October last year, the Government said that it sought to ease the burden on police and courts, allowing resources to be reprioritised to focus on the suppliers and manufacturers of illegal drugs in NSW. Clearly this has failed, with police officers choosing to send anyone they catch using or possessing small quantities of ice to court more than 95% of the time instead of to health services,” said Cate Faehrmann. 

 “The Early Drug Diversion Initiative is the only thing that the Minns Government has done to address drug harm, despite the Ice Inquiry handing down its recommendations four years ago. Removing criminal penalties for the personal use of drugs to reduce the harm from drugs and save lives was one of its key recommendations.

“Clearly NSW Police have not got the memo. This data shows that these laws are not doing what was intended and therefore police discretion to send people to court for low level drug offences should be removed.

“The previous Government committed $500 million towards drug treatment and justice programs as part of its response to the Ice Inquiry and the Labor Government says it’s continuing this work.

“The $500 million Ice Inquiry funding was a joint initiative by NSW Health and NSW Police in an effort to to ensure drug users could access health services instead of being sent through the criminal justice system. The Police Minister has questions to answer as to why NSW Police is not living up to their side of the agreement.

“Since the Ice Inquiry drug use, including ice, has increased. Meanwhile the only action this Government has taken to purportedly reduce drug harm is still punishing ice users instead of helping them.

“It’s clear that our current drug laws are failing the very people they’re supposed to protect. My message to the Premier is this: if you don’t have the courage to put in place measures to allow people get the treatment they need to reduce drug harm then announce your damn Drug Summit. Move out of the way and let the experts take over,” said Cate Faehrmann.

The most recent report by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program found that over 16.5 tonnes of methylamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and MDMA were consumed between August 2022 and August 2023 - a 17% increase from the year before.  

Of the estimated $12.4 billion spent on illicit drugs, 85% was spent on meth, with people in NSW consuming more of it than any other state or territory.

profile image
Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
23 June 2024
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