Page 935 - Week 03 - Thursday, 28 February 2013

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I note the comments made by Mr Rattenbury in relation to clause 23 of the bill, and I will spend the rest of my time dealing with these provisions. In the area of drug offences, the bill creates a new drug offence prohibiting the possession of a tablet press. A tablet press is an instrument or machine that may be used to manufacture a controlled drug in tablet form. The offence will criminalise the possession of a tablet press where a person intends to possess a press or where they are reckless about the fact that the item is in their possession. Such an offence will contribute towards preventing the manufacture and sale of illicit drugs.

The bill also amends the offence of possessing a controlled precursor with intent to manufacture and sell, and these are the matters that Mr Rattenbury has outlined in his comments this morning. The bill creates a presumption that the defendant intended to sell the controlled precursor. This presumption will only operate where the prosecution has shown the defendant intended to manufacture the controlled precursor substance.

As a serious drug offence in the Criminal Code, it is important that this offence is actually enforceable. This amendment will address concerns about the enforceability of the possession of controlled precursor offences in the Criminal Code, and it will support the overarching purpose of the ACT’s serious drug offences and bring the offence closer into line with other jurisdictions.

The bill provides clarity around the offences for the supply or possession of a substance, equipment, plant material or instructions for manufacturing a controlled drug or cultivating a controlled plant. This will provide clarity for courts, defence and prosecution as to the elements of this offence as they were originally intended by the legislature.

The government is strongly committed to responding to illegal drugs through strategies designed to disrupt their production and supply. This needs to happen together with strategies designed to prevent people taking up harmful drug use and improve access to treatments to reduce and treat drug addiction. Controlled precursors are chemicals that can be used to make controlled drugs. The serious drug offences in the Criminal Code are aimed at disrupting the manufacture and supply of controlled drugs.

The use of precursor chemicals to manufacture controlled drugs is a significant concern for law enforcement and health authorities. All Australian jurisdictions have adopted robust measures aimed at addressing these concerns. The government’s stated view is that the amendment in clause 23 is important for the proper enforcement of the offence of possessing a controlled precursor.

The explanatory statement for the bill notes that the amendment limits the presumption of innocence at section 221 of the Human Rights Act and goes on to provide a detailed justification for that limitation. The explanatory statement refers to the High Court case of Momcilovic v The Queen in discussing the nature of the presumption of innocence.

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