Alcoholics could end up in jail in Australia under new measures that experts warn will criminalise alcohol dependency.
The Northern Territory yesterday unveiled the country’s toughest police powers to target problem drinking, under which officers will be able to ban anyone charged with a serious alcohol-related offence from owning or consuming grog, or entering a licensed premises.
Those who continue to do so could face six months behind bars.
A database of banned drinkers will be set up, similar to one the new Country Liberal Party government scrapped months ago, and police will be responsible for enforcing the bans through their day-to-day activities.
There will be no return to measures that identify banned drinkers at the point of sale.
While not racially targeted, the plans, if introduced, are almost certain to have a strong effect on indigenous drinkers, and likely to see numerous people stopped, searched and asked for identification.
Announcing the proposed alcohol protection orders yesterday, Business Minister Dave Tollner predicted they would help reduce crime and its impact on victims.
“The APOs are purely a law-enforcement tool, and will be issued by police with detection and enforcement of breaches through policing activities,” Mr Tollner said.
The measures built on the government’s existing mandatory treatment plans, he said. Those plans involve sending alcoholics to locked rehabilitation centres with fences and guards.
Mr Tollner told ABC television those subject to APOs would be banned from drinking “full stop”, including in their own homes.
He said police could breathalyse such people wherever they needed to.
John Boffa, a spokesman for the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition in Alice Springs, said the move was a “national tragedy” that set alcohol policy back decades.
“It has created criminal consequences for people who are alcohol-dependent, in a jurisdiction that already has the highest incarceration rates in the country,” Dr Boffa said. “It sets heavy drinkers up (to fail).”
He accused the Country Liberals of breaking an election commitment to focus on treating alcohol dependency and not criminalise addiction.Source: The Australian – Prison threat for alcoholics
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