The New South Wales Bar Association has lent its support to Uniting’s “Fair Treatment” campaign calling for meaningful reform of illicit drug laws to save lives.
President Arthur Moses SC joined global drug reform campaigner Sir Richard Branson, the Executive Secretary of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Dr Khalid Tinasti, and Medical Director at the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, Dr Marianne Jauncey, to officially launch the campaign in Sydney today.
“There is a pressing need for legislators to reconsider the current laws in relation to illicit drugs. The NSW Bar Association is proud to support the Uniting Fair Treatment campaign which urges a fresh approach regarding illegal drugs,” Mr Moses SC said today.
“Illicit drug use places the lives of users at risk, causes distress to their families, enriches drug traffickers and harms the community who bear the brunt of crime to fund drug habits. However, the law is failing to decrease the level of illicit drug use in the community. Our members every day in courts around the State see the harm that is caused by the current prohibitionist model with its heavy reliance on the criminal law rather than health-based options to address drug use.”
In today’s Australian newspaper, available here (paywall) Sir Richard Branson said that “Good policy protects people. Our current drug policies protect no one — neither those who use ¬illicit drugs nor the rest of us… Offering people a health response rather than a criminal one saves lives and communities. It also saves money.”
“I am delighted to be in Australia this week, alongside my colleagues from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, to help launch the Fair Treatment campaign. The campaign is led by the Uniting Church — the first church in the world to pass a resolution to campaign actively for drug law reform — and is backed by a coalition of 60 partner organisations. It is calling for a people’s summit on treatment and advocating for sensible, evidence-based policies that can save thousands of Australian lives and help end the war on drugs,” Sir Richard said.
In 2014 the Bar Association’s Criminal Law Committee released a discussion paper that concluded the current approach to the prohibition against personal use and possession of certain types of illicit drugs had failed to decrease levels of personal use which in turn places drug users at risk and causes harm to the community.
Mr Moses SC said that through no fault of their own, law enforcement agencies have struggled to keep up with the sale of synthetic drugs, the internet drug trade and the illicit use of pharmaceutical drugs.
“Politicians need to be honest about these failures and examine realistic solutions rather than giving the community false comfort by pretending that we are successfully combatting illicit drug use. The Association’s Discussion Paper analysed the option of Government-sanctioned legal supply of certain drugs. There are strong arguments that such an approach would bring an end to the black market of drug supply and organised crime profiting from the misery associated with drug use. However, this proposal, which is largely based on the law enacted in Portugal, needs to be carefully and properly considered to avoid unintended consequences,” said Mr Moses SC.
“A first and realistic step may be to decriminalise the personal use of certain illicit drugs which will encourage people to come forward to have drug content tested and seek treatment for addiction without the fear of being prosecuted. Harm reduction has been found to be more cost-effective than law enforcement in reducing levels of use. This will be a better outcome for users, their families and the community,” Mr Moses SC said.