Queensland’s Police Drug Diversion program is set to be expanded to include minor possession of all types of drugs, with a new tiered approach to smaller quantities of drugs.
Tiered Approach to Drug Diversion
First minor drug possession offence
- Police officer issues a warning; and
- Drug warning notice and police referral to a support service.
Second and third minor drug possession offence.
- Person offered the opportunity to participate in a mandatory Drug Diversion Assessment Program
Fourth minor drug possession offence
- Notice to appear in court.
Consistent approach to Drug Diversion with other states and Territories.
The expanded drug diversion program will bring Queensland in line with all other jurisdictions across the nation. It is aimed at helping people deal with a health issue, particularly young people who are often affected by drug use. According to the police, diversion programs result in the majority of individuals never having contact with the police again.
This approach will benefit many young people who have acquired a criminal history only because of their possession of a small quantity of illegal drugs for their own personal use. Drug assessment programs will help divert these young otherwise law-abiding young people from the criminal justice system.
Amendment of legislation
- Amend Section 15C ‘Meaning of eligible drug offender’ of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 outlines the circumstances where a person will not be an eligible drug offender including if the person has previously been given 2 diversion alternatives.
- Insert new section 378C ‘Drug diversion warning’ into the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act which requires an eligible adult person arrested for, or questioned by police about, a minor drugs offence, to be offered a drug diversion warning in relation to the offence.
A person will not be eligible for a drug diversion warning if the person has previously been offered either a drug diversion warning or the opportunity to participate in a drug diversion assessment program.The person must agree to be given a drug diversion warning for the minor drug offence. Police must release the person at the earliest reasonable opportunity after the person has been given the drug diversion warning.
Support of Queensland Police
Every year, police in Queensland come across approximately 20,000 people in possession of small quantities of drugs for their own personal use. Expanding the police drug diversion program will free up police time to focus on serious drug offending such as drug supply, trafficking, and manufacturing while keeping people with a health issue out of the judicial system.
I wanted this reform because research shows that if you divert people early to health and education services they are less likely to reoffend.Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll
Health experts and the police support the new approach, which is a common-sense approach based on the evidence that if people are diverted early to health and education services, they are less likely to reoffend. The Attorney General has also indicated that this approach was a recommendation of the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce.
The Palaszczuk Government is investing $1.645 billion over the next five years into the Achieving balance: The Queensland Alcohol and Other Drugs Plan 2022–2027 and the Better Care Together plan for Queensland’s state-funded mental health, alcohol, and other drug services to 2027. The drug diversion program is a key component of the Achieving Balance plan, which was released last year.
The expansion of the drug diversion program will have a significant impact on the state’s justice system. Currently, police spend around nine working hours processing a minor drug offense case through to its conclusion in court. With the expanded drug diversion program, police officers will have more time to focus on serious drug offending while keeping people with a health issue out of the judicial system.
Drug diversion and the criminal justice system
The courts get needlessly clogged with minor cases that are really a health issuePolice Minister Mark Ryan
The expansion of Queensland’s Police Drug Diversion program is a step in the right direction to treat, rather than criminalize, minor drug use. The new tiered approach is based on common sense and evidence, which has shown that diversion programs result in the majority of individuals never having contact with the police again. It is a health response that benefits the entire community and will save police time, enabling officers to focus on more serious drug offending. This approach will help to interrupt the pattern of drug use and offending, and give people an opportunity to receive the support they need to make better choices.
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