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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 3440 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

The impetus for these amendments arose as a result of the development of work to undertake a scientific trial of a safe injecting place in the ACT. These amendments will afford protection against acts of good faith or omission to the operators and staff of a safe injecting place and immunity to the Territory in respect of drug-related injuries or death for users of the facility if, indeed, this Assembly gives approval in February for a safe injecting place. The proposed scientific trial will enable clients to access clean injecting equipment, to inject in a clean, supervised environment and to dispose of equipment safely. The facility will also provide emergency assistance in the case of an overdose. It would act as a point of referral to a range of related services, such as health promotion, counselling, medical treatment, housing or sexual assault services. The facility could also act as an entry point for injecting drug users to access detoxification services or to be linked with methadone or other treatment programs.

In the course of the development of the proposal for the scientific trial, a committee comprising representatives of the Department of Justice and Community Safety, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Australian Federal Police was charged with considering the legal and law enforcement issues associated with the trial. This committee identified significant issues of criminal and civil liability that would arise. I will be discussing the Government's intention with respect to criminal issues when we debate the motion on the notice paper later today. The civil liability issues are dealt with in the Bill before you.

The committee advised that the majority of these risks should be managed by legislation to afford safe injecting place operators and staff protection for acts of good faith or omission in the course of operating the safe injecting place and to provide immunity to the Territory in respect of claims by safe injecting place users for drug-related injuries or death. The Intoxicated Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1994 currently provides protection for the operators and staff involved in the care of intoxicated persons.

While protection is given to the operators and staff of a safe injecting place for acts of good faith or omission against claims by third parties, no such protection is afforded to the Territory. This is because third parties - for example, someone who is injured in a car accident caused by an intoxicated person who has injected at a safe injecting place - should have some capacity to make a claim. This, of course, implies that the Territory will be involved in running the safe injecting place, and at this time, Mr Speaker, that would be my intention. Both types of immunity that are being conferred are being done so on the basis that the activities conducted at the safe injecting place will be technically illegal as well as high risk.

The purpose of the safe injecting place is to provide a clean environment for injecting drug users, not to regulate what is injected. The operators and staff of the facility will have no way of knowing what substances or combination of substances are being injected or the quantities injected. It will not be possible to know what other substances a person has consumed or their medical history. Because of the nature of the safe injecting place, insurance will be virtually impossible to obtain for either the operator of the safe injecting place or the Territory.

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