Page 3881 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 19 September 2017

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Earlier this year, the government implemented laws that gave the Commissioner for Fair Trading the explicit power to require CCTV cameras at pubs and clubs. CCTV footage can be vital in identifying offenders and has already been used in cases involving drink spiking in the territory. We have actively listened to our community in developing these measures. Today’s bill is the result of listening to our law enforcement community on how to better target drink spiking.

As has been noted, this bill will create two new offences to protect victims of food or drink spiking. Together they will broadly cover all forms of food or drink spiking, and they will ensure that it can be prosecuted effectively when it is discovered. New definitions in this bill will ensure that behaviours this community recognises as criminal can be prosecuted effectively.

The term “intoxicating substance” in this bill includes any substance that affects a person’s senses or understanding. This means that the issue in a criminal case will be the effect of a substance on a person and not whether it meets the technical definition of what is a poison or medicine. This bill will provide fewer opportunities for technical arguments.

One of the offences in this bill applies where a person gives food or drink with an intoxicating substance to someone who is unaware that there is anything intoxicating in the food or drink. If it can be shown that the offender intended harm of any kind with this behaviour, the crime can be prosecuted. This new offence broadly covers the typical case of dropping a substance—a memory loss drug for example—into another person’s drink while it is unattended.

The second offence this bill introduces deals with giving higher quantities of an intoxicating substance than a person would reasonably expect. This would apply in an instance when a person orders an alcoholic drink but it contains far more alcohol than they would have expected. The context of alleged criminal behaviour will be key to prosecuting this new offence.

An example of the importance of context would be where a person offers a slightly larger or stronger drink to a friend in a social setting and a reasonable person may not ordinarily object. That would not be a crime under this new law. However, giving someone a mixed drink with far more alcohol than they would expect on a first date could be criminal behaviour under this law. Giving the same drink to someone who says they only want a small amount of alcohol because they plan on driving could also be covered. If a reasonable person would have objected, had they known about the extra alcohol, that situation will be covered by this law.

Central to both of these new offences is an expanded definition of “harm”. The Criminal Code at the moment defines physical harm as including unconsciousness, pain, disease or any physical contact a person might reasonably object to. Drink spiking can make a person drowsy but not necessarily unconscious. It also may cause no pain. At the point where the drink is spiked, the offender may not touch the victim at all and thus there is no contact to object to.

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