WA’s Drug Crisis: Tough Sentencing Laws Not Working
Methyl amphetamine has now become the most prevalent and dangerous drug in the Australian community. The extent of WA’s drug crisis is most evident in our criminal justice system with a staggering increase in drug related offences in recent years.
The number of people who are charged with possession of drugs, manufacturing of drugs, and sell or supply of prohibited drugs has increased significantly in the past decade.
As the use of methyl amphetamine continues to escalate the courts are becoming inundated with people who commit otherwise uncharacteristic acts to fund and support their addiction.
What can be done?
The question as to what can be done to address the ever increasing drug distribution and drug use among our community is a difficult one. There are those that advocate decriminalisation of drugs, but that is an enormous step to take and it is likely many people within our community would feel very uncomfortable with this course of action.
Certainly though, some kind of radical change is needed if the community is ever going to have any chance of properly combating the problem of illicit drugs.
Are Tougher Sentences Working?
One only has to look inside our prisons to see that the tougher penalties being handed down by the courts are not working. Prison sentences have gone up and up over the past couple of decades. Still, more and more people are committing drug related offences and the illegal distribution of prohibited drugs is becoming wider spread. In fact Western Australia has recently seen a case before the courts involving the largest ever shipment of drugs into the State.
We need to find innovative ways of dealing with the problem. Perhaps the starting point is to focus on the reasons why so many people are using drugs and why there is such a big market for drugs.
My view is that we need to fund the sort of programs that are designed to help our youth and people in our community who are struggling.
The precursory factor
I have been working as a criminal lawyer for a long time and, with the exception of specific matters, it’s difficult to think of a criminal law matter before the court that doesn’t involve drugs. Even with cases like murder.
The amount of murder cases going through the Western Australian courts which involves a drug user murdering the drug dealer, the drug dealer murdering the drug user or people murdering each other over drugs is significant. There are also all sorts of burglaries where people break and enter into people’s houses to steal property so they can sell it to fund a drug habit. Ultimately, an enormous proportion of the court’s work involves dealing with the consequences of drugs either directly or indirectly.
The Law Office of Andrew Williams has, for many years, been representing people who have been charged with offences involving drug use as the precursory factor and root cause.
On many occasions I have refered my clients to specialist drug rehabilitation centres, and treating psychologists. Engaging with these individuals and places helps our clients, through recovery, to put their lives back on track. Simultaneously, it assists them in moving towards a more favorable result within the criminal justice process.
The Drug Court in Western Australia
There are certain instances where we encourage our clients to engage with the Drug Court – a specialty court within the Perth Magistrates Court that deals with offenders with illegal drug abuse problems.
The Drug Court aims to support offenders on their way to a stable and crime-free life, through participation in treatment programs. Successful completion of these programs is reflected in the sentence a Magistrate imposes after hearing the defence and the prosecution’s final sentencing submissions. This is also the case for clients in District Court and Supreme Court, where a report submitted by the Perth Drug Court reflecting the outcomes of program participation may be taken into account for sentencing.
We Can Help
For detailed information on how Andrew Williams can assist with your matter, read our article: Advice from a Perth Drug Offence Defence Lawyer