For the first time in NSW, Drug Amnesty Bins have appeared at events over the Christmas and New Year period. Event’s such as NYE In The Park, Field Day and FOMO all featured the bins.
It’s unclear how successful the bins were. Initial reports stated 169 people were charged with drug related offences at Field Day, a drop from 194 the year before. However focusing only on the number of people charged ignores the fact that the majority of people who possess drugs at festivals are not detected by police.
Some media reports have raised questions about the legal position of a person caught by police in possession of a drug, who claims to be on their way to a bin. This misunderstands the legal role and purpose of the bins.
Not a Defence
The bins do not provide a person with a legal defence to possession of a drug. They merely assist police in the exercise of their discretion about who to search, where to patrol, and who to charge.
This can be distinguished from the medically supervised injecting centres, where provisions of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 exempt people from criminal liability when using drugs within those premises. That provides a full legal defence.
Time will tell how successful the bins are, and whether festival goers trust them. However it is important to recognise the actual role they play.
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