By Alfa · Aug 2, 2004 · ·
  1. Alfa

    Premier Geoff Gallop has hit back at claims his Government has a secret
    policing program soft on illicit drugs.

    But he conceded there should have been a public announcement when the
    Federal Government's scheme of cautioning first offenders with hard drugs
    was widened to include all the State.

    The change lets people caught for the first time with up to half a gram of
    amphetamines or heroin or up to two tablets of ecstasy or other drugs escape
    criminal penalty by going to three counselling sessions.

    "This is a Commonwealth initiative," Dr Gallop said yesterday. "It has been
    funded by the Commonwealth and it allows for the diversion of people into
    compulsory treatment. These sorts of programs are worth pursuing. There
    should have been a public announcement, but it is not a secret plan."

    Dr Gallop said he would await clear results from the program before deciding
    its future.

    "If the program is effective I believe we ought to continue with it," he
    said. "But if it is not effective I will be the first to recommend its

    Attorney-General Jim McGinty said the Government supported programs to get
    small, first-time users off drugs and would seek an evaluation of the
    initative to ensure it was effective. The diversion program was part of the
    National Illicit Drug Strategy Initiatives agreed to by the Council of
    Australian Governments five years ago.

    It was funded by the Commonwealth and set up by the former coalition

    The current State Government had not changed the program.

    The decision to expand it statewide had been announced by then Coalition
    Police Minister Kevin Prince in December 2000.

    Police Minister Michele Roberts said the program was to protect people.

    National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre information manager Paul Dillon
    said giving people caught with small amounts of drugs a caution and
    counselling sessions would reduce drug use by young people. "Just getting
    caught and having the police officer write the ticket for a caution can be
    enough to make a young person never try drugs again," he said.

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  1. Alfa

    I applaud the State Government and the police for having the courage
    to forge ahead with a sensible approach to the drug crisis (Secret
    soft turn on hard drugs, 26/7). Our youth are only experimenting with
    an increasingly confusing world that we've given them. With the
    backdrop of legal drugs costing the taxpayer a fortune, it is good
    that we are exploring new avenues in handling these problems.

    Given the high proportion of school-aged drug users, I find it hard to
    believe that we are dealing with an epidemic of criminal adolescents.
    This is a social issue that needs to be handled a lot more
    intelligently than our criminal system can deliver, with the added
    benefit that an intelligent approach is likely to be a lot cheaper.

    A lot of young people do not understand the impact and consequences
    involved, just as the social impact of tobacco and alcohol was never
    fully appreciated in the context of modern society. A high-impact
    education campaign enlightening users to the consequences of what they
    are indulging in is the way forward.

    Our youth are smart enough to do the maths themselves. Eventually,
    when we have an old-age home full of dementia and mentally ill illicit
    drug users, this education campaign will be at its most effective. It
    is an outdated concept that a hard hand or harsh penalties curb
    people's behaviour. The understanding that you cannot force people to
    do something is a notion we've embraced at a parenting level but we
    are yet to effectively apply it to the social, workplace and
    international equivalents. Dialogue, education and communication so
    that people can make their own informed decisions with acceptance of
    their consequences is the way forward.

    Our police services need to focus their activities on catching the big
    fish in the drug industry. Without doing this we create a never-ending
    money earner for the police, State Government and organised crime. If
    the penalties are lucrative enough you soon have the State Government
    losing focus on the issue and seeing only the revenue, as with the
    speed cameras.

    Source: West Australian (Australia)
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