Police Powers ( Drug Premises ) Act 2001
1st July 2001
New powers designed to enable police to uproot drug activity and take appropriate action against organised drug dealing have been introduced with the Police Powers (Drug Premises) Act 2001. These new powers will enable police to overcome the strategies used by professional criminals to evade apprehension and void disruption to their operations.
The principal intention of the legislature is to give police the powers they need to stop the drug trade in Cabramatta, however the Act applies state wide.
Drug houses – the problem
Drug houses (premises used for the unlawful supply and manufacture of prohibited drugs) have been a community problem and a law enforcement issue for some time. The NSW Police Force has been lobbying for many years, for increased powers to deal with them. The Police Powers (Drug Premises) Act 2001, which commences on the 1st July 2001, confers significantly greater powers on police with respect to drug premises and those associated with their operation.
The legislation – what it means
The new laws introduced by the Police Powers (Drug Premises) Act 2001 will enable the NSW Police Force to deliver a more effective response to the problem of drug houses (referred to in the Act as “drug premises”). The Act makes available to police an additional set of tools capable of being used in policing ‘drug crime’ and in particular, that which is associated with drug premises.
The Act creates new offences with respect to those involved in drug premises.
Being an owner or occupier of any premises and knowingly allowing the premises to be used as drug premises.
The Act targets owners and occupiers of drug premises against whom it can be proved knowingly allowed the premises to be used as such.
Organising or conducting, or assisting in organising or conducting, drug premises.
Those who organise or conduct, or assist in organising or conducting, drug premises (including those who Act as a lookout, door attendant or guard at drug premises) will commit an offence under this section unless they can show they did not know, and could not reasonably be expected to have known, that the premises were being organised or conducted as drug premises.
Being found on, or found entering or leaving, drug premises without a lawful purpose or lawful excuse.
The onus will be on these people to show why they are on the premises. It’s a characteristic of drug premises that they are not used for lawful or domestic purposes, so it’s reasonable to expect persons to show why they are there once it’s proven they are premises used for the manufacture and supply of prohibited drugs.
- The Act enables premises to be proven to be drug premises by circumstantial evidence that they were being used for the unlawful supply or manufacture of prohibited drugs, even in the absence of evidence of drugs having been found in the premises. Once it’s established that premises are drug premises, the above offences flow from being present on those premises.
- The Act enables police to obtain a search warrant to enter and search premises believed to be used for the unlawful supply or manufacture of a prohibited drug. The search warrant will assist police in obtaining evidence that premises are drug premises, as well as evidence against persons for offences under the Act and the Drug Misuse & Trafficking Act 1985.
The Act also introduces significant amendments to a number of other Acts, including the Bail Act 1978, the Criminal Assets Recovery Act 1990 and the Summary Offences Act 1988.
Summary Offences Act 1988
The Act introduces important amendments to the “move along” provisions of the Summary Offences Act 1988.
The prevalence of the drug trade in Cabramatta has attracted drug users and suppliers to the Cabramatta business district and railway station. Police now have the power to disrupt the drug trade, both in Cabramatta and wherever else it emerges, using the amendments the Act introduces to s.28F of the Summary Offences Act 1988 – the “move along” legislation.
In addition to the current power, a police officer is now able to give a direction to a person in a public place if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person is present in the place for the purpose of:
- unlawfully supplying a prohibited drug
- intending to unlawfully supply a prohibited drug
- soliciting another person or persons to unlawfully supply a prohibited drug
- obtaining, procuring or purchasing a prohibited drug.
Bail Act 1978
The amendments to the Bail Act recognise the correlation between organised drug trafficking and guns and other weapons by ensuring any association a person (the subject of a bail determination) has or had with prohibited firearms, pistols, and offensive weapons and instruments, is taken into account when the question of bail is addressed.
The Act amends the Bail Act by removing the presumption in favour of bail for a person charged with unauthorised possession or use of a prohibited firearm or pistol.
It also requires a court, when addressing the question of bail:
- to take into account any prior criminal record of the person involving such offences
to have regard to whether the offence involves the possession or use of an offensive weapon or instrument in determining whether:
* the offence is a serious offence
* the person will commit one or more serious offences while at liberty.
Criminal Assets Recovery Act 1990
The Act also amends the Criminal Assets Recovery Act 1990, ensuring the criminal asset confiscation provisions of that Act operate to drug premises.
The Police Powers (Drug Premises) Act 2001 potentially provides a most effective legislative framework with which to address a long standing law enforcement and community problem.