Drug Supply Prohibition Scheme: Perpetually Guilty through Warrantless Searching

Drug Supply Prohibition Scheme: Perpetually Guilty through Warrantless Searching

KEY TAKE OUTS

  • The Drug Supply Prohibition Order Pilot Scheme Bill 2020 is currently at its Second Reading in the NSW Parliament.
  • Anyone over the age of 18 who has been charged with a drug offence within the last 10 years can be searched, along with their premises and vehicles, at any time without a warrant.
  • The scheme comes as the latest attempt by the Berejiklian Government to conquer the war on drugs.

What is the Drug Supply Prohibition Order Pilot Scheme Bill 2020?

The Bill involves a 2-year pilot scheme to be implemented into the Bankstown Police Command, and the Coffs-Clarence, Hunter Valley and Orana Mid-Western districts.

Scott Farlow states in his Second Reading Speech that the objective of the scheme is to ‘assist police to gather evidence of drug supply and drug manufacture effectively and efficiently’ by undertaking surveillance on those already convicted of a drug offence under the Drugs Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985. It allows police to stop, detain and search the person, along with their home and vehicle, and seize any potential evidence of illegal drug activity without a warrant. The scheme is also said to be a deterrence strategy for those likely to reengage in drug supply.

Where did it come from?

The scheme is based on the firearm prohibition scheme, which introduced similar warrantless search capacities. However, there is clearly the alternative objective stemming from the Berijiklian-government’s desperation in the ongoing drug-war to stop young people dying or overdosing at festivals.

Who does it apply to?

The pilot scheme, if it goes ahead will apply to anyone over the age of 18 who has been convicted of a drug offence under the Drugs Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 within the last 10 years and enters into the Bankstown area, or the Coffs-Clarence, Hunter Valley and Orana Mid-Western districts. A person does not need to reside in these areas to have their person searched, the only requirement is that a police officer suspects it is ‘reasonably required’ to determine if they are engaging in drug supply.

Issues

There are major privacy violations and breaches of civil liberties that come with this scheme.

While the government are attempting to attack the war on drugs, they are doing so in a manner which erodes the very foundations of our legal system and ideal of justice, particularly that one is innocent until proven guilty. Consistent surveillance and searching at the will of police places a double penalty on those already convicted of a drug offence, making them perpetually guilty in the eyes of the law. A police officer can also apply to an authorised magistrate for an order to be imposed on a person ‘likely to engage’ in supply, making these warrantless searches applicable to almost anyone with enough evidence provided.

As mentioned previously, the scheme is based on a firearms prohibition scheme which the Government has described as ‘successful’, but statistically was a waste. A 2015 report by the NSW Ombudsman revealed the futility of the scheme; in the first 10 months of operation, 642 searches were carried out with no result. Only 8 people were found with other illegal items irrelevant to the scheme, and a huge 18% of those searched had no history of any kind of criminal conviction. As expected, the criminal law community is looking upon the overzealous use of police powers, and the history of these kinds of powers, as a major human rights concern.

Conclusion

To search a person and their other belongings without a warrant should be beyond the scope of police power. It is concerning to see that the Pilot Scheme has progressed so quickly. Previous outcomes have shown that warrantless searches only produce futile results and injustice to those who have already served time for their conviction, making the scheme just another fruitless weapon in the war on drugs.


ABOUT LARA MENON

Lara Menon

Lara joined the Coutts Lawyers & Conveyancers Legal team in August 2018 and is currently working as a Lawyer in our Criminal and Family Law team.

Earlier in 2019, Lara was selected by the NSW Law Society to undertake an internship with the NSW Coroner’s Court, working as a Judge’s Associate for the Deputy State Coroner.


For further information please don’t hesitate to contact:

Lara Menon
Lawyer
lara@couttslegal.com.au
1300 268 887

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