Minister for Health
Minister for Police and Counter-terrorism
Police given power to issue on-the-spot fines with health intervention for small quantity drug possession
The NSW Government is expanding and strengthening drug diversion programs in NSW, that will save more lives and continue the fight against addiction.
Under the changes, NSW Police will be given the ability to issue up to two on the spot Criminal Infringement Notices (CINs), which are $400 fines, to adults for personal drug use and small quantity drug possession offences.
This will not apply to any serious drug offences like drug supply.
The scheme will encourage people who get a Criminal Infringement Notice to complete a tailored drug and alcohol intervention and, if they do complete it, then their fine will be treated as though it was paid.
If the health intervention is not completed, the penalty will be enforced by Revenue NSW.
NSW Police will retain their discretion in all cases to charge a person and proceed to court – this adds another tool to their kit. It is still an offence to possess and use illicit drugs.
It is anticipated that this scheme will divert thousands of people away from our court system each year, including hundreds of First Nations people.
The majority of low-level drug offenders who attend court receive a fine yet do not receive any incentive to take up health advice.
This is a commonsense, evidence-based approach that if you divert people early to health and education services, they are less likely to reoffend.
This is about preventing crime.
This change will bring NSW into line with all other Australian states and territories, which operate drug diversion programs for low level illicit drug offences.
This reform seeks to ease the burden on police and courts, allowing resources to be reprioritised to focus on the suppliers and manufacturers of illegal drugs in NSW.
This early intervention approach will help prevent long-term drug use, which may lead to further criminal offending.
It will also reduce contact with the criminal justice system for these first- and second-time drug possession offenders. Formal contact with the criminal justice system can increase the likelihood of reoffending.
The former government in 2022 tasked NSW Police and NSW Health with preparing a report detailing their implementation readiness ahead of final endorsement, following a recommendation from the ice inquiry.
The Commissioner of Police and Chief Health Officer supported the approach and have advised the government of their operational readiness to implement the scheme from next year.
The Government will this week introduce Justice Miscellaneous Provisions Bill to finalise this change.
The scheme will use the existing Criminal Infringement Notice framework already used by police.
The new drug diversion program will not apply to the following:
- Drug supply, dealing or trafficking; or
- Drug production or manufacture; or
- Previously convicted drug dealers; or
- People who have large quantities of drugs; or
- People who have already received two Criminal Infringement Notices for drug possession offences.
It is anticipated that the scheme will commence in early 2024.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Ryan Park:
“Drug use and dependence are very much health issues and ones that are far better addressed through health support outside the courts and criminal justice systems.”
“This is an evidence-based approach in line with community expectations. It responds directly to expert evidence, and recommendations from the Special Commission of Inquiry into the drug ice.”
Quotes attributable to Minister for Police and Counter-terrorism Yasmin Catley:
“The safety of the community is our top priority and this scheme provides better outcomes for low-level drug offending without compromising safety.
“It is not mandatory for the Police to issue an on-the-spot fine – this is another tool in their kit and police retain their discretion to deal with the matter as appropriate, including proceeding to court.
“Providing the police with more options to manage drug offences allows a proportionate response to the offending behaviour and health issues that officers are seeing in the community.
“It brings NSW in line with other Australian states and territories, which all currently operate drug diversion schemes for illicit drugs.”
Quotes attributable to NSW Attorney General Michael Daley:
“Formal contact with the criminal justice system only increases the likelihood of reoffending, and this has knock-on effects on people’s employment, their housing and their relationships.
“We want to see people receive the health supports they need rather than see them caught up in the criminal justice system.
“It is still an offence to possess and use illicit drugs and the NSW Government supports people, their families and communities impacted by illicit drugs.
“This approach to personal drug use and possession will also reduce pressures on the Local Court system and free up its resources to deal with more serious issues.”