Page 4656 - Week 12 - Thursday, 15 October 2009

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Crime—drug arrests
(Question No 284)

Mr Rattenburry asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 26 August 2009:

(1) Given that data showing the number of arrests in the ACT for drug consumers compared to drug providers (excluding Simple Cannabis Offence Notices) is contained in the Australian Crime Commission's Illicit Drug Data Reports and that the reports indicate a significant upward trend in arrest numbers for consumers and a significant downward trend in arrest number for providers from the financial year 2004-05 onwards, what is the Government’s explanation for the increasing upward trend for consumers and the downward trend for providers.

(2) What is the Government’s explanation for the high percentage of consumer arrests in light of the often stated position that best practice policing and investigation focuses resources on prosecuting providers not consumers.

(3) Can the Minister provide data for arrests and convictions or outcomes from those arrests for consumers and providers by (a) age (or age group if necessary to de-identify data) and (b) Act and section number relevant to the arrest for each year from 2000-2001 to 2007-08 inclusive.

(4) Can the Minister provide indicators for the levels of (a) drug related crimes and (b) reductions in drug supply and drug use for each year from 2000-2001 to 2007-08 inclusive.

Mr Corbell: The answer to the member’s question is as follows:

1. The volume of arrests for drug consumers and drug providers for the ACT is significantly lower than all other Australian jurisdictions. As the ACT data is a particularly small statistical sample, any trends derived from this data should be interpreted with caution.

Having undertaken some analysis of this data, ACT Policing notes that the proportion of drug consumer arrests, as opposed to drug provider arrests in the ACT, is not significantly different from other jurisdictions.

Further analysis of this issue points to the research which suggests that unemployed drug consumers who are drug addicts may commit property crime offences to fund their drug addiction. The increased trend in the arrest of drug consumers in the ACT is consistent with an increased trend in the arrest of offenders committing property crime offences over the same period.

It is often the case that illicit drugs are detected on persons when they are initially apprehended for other, non-drug related offences. Given the growth in property crime offences, the growth in drug consumer arrests is plausible.

To break the cycle of crime and illicit drugs, as well as to reduce both the demand and harms involving illicit drugs, ACT Policing, in partnership with ACT Health, operates a Drug Diversion Program. The program enables police to divert drug consumers detected in possession of a small amount of drugs away from the Criminal Justice System and to ACT Health Drug Programs for evaluation, education and treatment.

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