This seminar outlines the first assessment of the national reach of Australian drug diversion programs for use/possess offences – that is how many people detected for simple use and possession offences are diverted away from criminal sanction – and barriers and enablers to expanding diversion.
Australian criminal justice responses relating to personal use and possession of illicit drugs are subject to frequent public debate. However, there are systemic gaps in knowledge about how Australian drug laws are actually enforced: such as how many people actually end up in court for use and possession alone and how many are being diverted away from criminal sanction. This is an important omission as diversion, whereby offenders are diverted away from criminal justice sanction or into drug education/treatment, constitutes one of the core drug policy responses to illicit drug use and drug-related offending in Australia. Quantifying the national reach of Australian drug diversion programs is thus increasingly important. This seminar will overview the key findings from a recent project for the Commonwealth Department of Health that assessed the scale of criminal justice response to use/possession in Australia over the period 2010-11 to 2014-15, including the number of people detected, prosecuted and/or sentenced for use/possession, the number of people diverted away from criminal justice proceedings, and the populations that are most and least likely to receive a drug diversion by state/territory and demographic factors, and identified barriers and enablers to expanding diversion for use/possession offences in Australia.
Dr Caitlin Hughes, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), UNSW Sydney
Dr Hughes is a criminologist and Senior Research Fellow at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. She works as part of the Drug Policy Modelling Program (DPMP) to improve Australian drug policy by identifying what works, translating research evidence and engaging directly with policy makers. Dr Hughes' prime focus is improving understanding of the effects of different legislative regimes and law enforcement approaches by outlining what laws and policies are deployed, how they operate in practice, assessing the criminal justice, health and social impacts of this investment, and identifying avenues for more effective responses.