Changes to small quantity drug possession charges

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.

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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 – it is still an offence to possess and use illicit drugs.

The system will reduce contact with the criminal justice system for first- and second-time drug possession offenders.

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.

“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,” Minister for Health Ryan Park said.

“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.”

Minister for Police and Counter-terrorism Yasmin Catley said the 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 is anticipated that the scheme will commence in early 2024.

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