Better drug rehab & urgent Ice Inquiry response needed to beat Far West crime & incarceration


With rates across multiple offence categories at two and three times the state average, Broken Hill needs an alternative approach to making its community safer.

President of the Law Society of NSW Joanne van der Plaat has joined the Far West Law Society in calling for better drug rehabilitation and diversionary support to address the causes of offending for many illicit drug users.

I am delighted to be visiting Broken Hill to listen to the local legal profession’s concerns about the challenges they face in serving the justice system in this vast area,” Ms van der Plaat said.

“With illicit drug offences in Broken Hill in the year to March this year at about double the state average, and bail breaches at almost three times the average NSW rate, it’s clear that current approaches are not working.”

Ms van der Plaat said the Government has failed to respond adequately to the recommendations of the Ice Inquiry released more than two and a half years ago, in which former Commissioner Dan Howard provided the Government with a road map towards defeating the scourge of drugs in our communities. 

“Since that time, the Government’s only responses have been to dismiss five harm minimisation measures; promising a Drug Court in Dubbo; and announcing a very small Aboriginal Justice Package,” Ms van der Plaat said.

“Earlier this month, I stood shoulder to shoulder with the President of the NSW Bar Association of NSW and former Commissioner Howard to implore the Government to implement four ‘no-brainer’ recommendations.”

•    Introduce a state-wide pre-court diversion scheme for possession of small amounts of drugs, supported by appropriate health supports (recommendation 12);
•    Expand the Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) program to ensure access to all eligible defendants, including young people (recommendations 13 &16);
•    Urgent increased investment in specialist alcohol and other drugs (AOD) health services to meet significant unmet demand (recommendation 31); and 
•    Partner with Aboriginal communities to urgently develop and significantly increase the availability of local specialist drug treatment services that are culturally competent and culturally safe (recommendation 58).

President of the Far West Regional Law Society Eric Craney said the establishment of AOD health and culturally safe treatment services in Broken Hill would be a major step in helping to reduce the shocking levels of over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system. 

“Additionally, the Government should extend the Dubbo Aboriginal Bail Pilot across regional areas including Broken Hill, to reduce the incidents of technical bail breaches that cause no safety risk to the community, but which can result in unnecessary incarceration of vulnerable defendants,” Mr Craney said.

Wednesday 14 September 2022