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Police Powers and Drug Law Enforcement in NSW

Police Powers and Drug Law Enforcement in NSW

Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper No. 06/2001 by Gareth Griffith

Proposed reform package: This paper discusses issues relevant to Premier's Carr's Ministerial Statement of 27 March 2001 in which he outlined a strategy to combat drug use in Cabramatta. This was part of what the Premier described as 'an evidence-based plan, to be mounted in three stages, which will apply statewide - not just at Cabramatta. Stage one is a criminal justice plan. Stage two is a plan for compulsory treatment and stage three is a plan for prevention and early intervention' (pages 1-2).

Background issues: Among the key background issues are the recent approaches to policing in Cabramatta, plus the drug trends and crime rates in NSW generally and, more specifically, in the Fairfield Local Government Area (pages 4-11).

Viewpoints in the contemporary debate: As one would expect, the proposed reform package has generated a diverse range of comments, especially in relation to the stage one criminal justice plan. Amongst legal commentators, the plan's suggested reversal of the onus of proof has proved to be particularly controversial (pages 11-18).

Recent developments in police powers in NSW: These include the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Police and Public Safety) Act 1998 which, among other things, created a new offence relating to having custody of a knife in a public place. The operation of that Act is the subject of reviews by the Ombudsman and the Minister for Police. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has also reported on the use of these knife laws (pages 18-23).

Recent developments in drug law enforcement: Recent developments in NSW include the findings of the Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service, the recommendations of the 1999 Drug Summit and the establishment of the NSW Drug Court and Youth Drug Court. The policies pursued in NSW are part of the broader policy approach associated with the National Drug Strategy. On 19 November 1998, the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy (MCDS), which comprises Commonwealth, State and Territory Health Ministers and Law Enforcement Ministers, endorsed the National Drug Strategy Framework 1998-99 to 2002-03. This framework reflected the agreement of MCDS to reaffirm Australia's commitment to harm minimisation as the philosophy underpinning approaches to harmful drug use nationally (pages 24-32).
Selected review of the literature on drug law enforcement: A brief survey of the literature indicates that there are no ready made answers to the problems associated with the use of illicit drugs. From a policy perspective, there is general agreement that harm minimisation is the primary aim of public policy and that drug law enforcement must serve that overriding goal. But from that point on there is considerable scope for argument, both about the overall thrust of public policy and about the role enforcement is to play in a detailed sense. Further research is needed to assist in an open and informed debate about the best probable courses of action (pages 32-36).