SMH: ‘Nowhere to hide’ for drug dealers as police given new powers

NSW Police will be granted greater powers that allow them to search drug dealers, their homes and cars without a search warrant for two years in a pilot program to be implemented in four jurisdictions.

A bill, which was first flagged in mid-2019, passed Parliament on Wednesday night and is expected to come into effect before the end of the year.

Under the program, a court may issue a drug supply prohibition order (DSPO) for any person convicted of a serious drug offence, such as supplying or manufacturing an indictable quantity, in the past 10 years.

The order will give police the power to search the homes, vehicles and person of convicted drug dealers at any time over two years if authorities have reasonable grounds to suspect that there is evidence of drug-related crime.

An individual may appeal against the DSPO six months after it is issued.

Four jurisdictions across the state will be involved in the trial: Bankstown, Coffs Harbour, Hunter Valley police district, and Dubbo and surrounding towns that fall under the Orana police area.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott said the four areas had been selected for the trial because of police intelligence and in consultation with the local MPs.

The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research will conduct an evaluation at the end of the trial.

While the program is earmarked for a two-year trial, Mr Elliott said if police indicated the orders were successful, he would be open to rolling it out further across the state.

He added the orders would help thwart organised criminal gangs from profiteering through the large-scale manufacture and supply of illegal drugs in the state.

“I want convicted drug dealers and organised criminal groups who target the most vulnerable in our state to know they have nowhere to hide if they are dealing drugs,” he said.

“The message today is that every mom and dad across the state can sleep more soundly tonight knowing full well that it’s going to be harder for their kids to buy drugs.

“Why? Because the supplier and manufacturer of those drugs is now going to have their life turned upside down with these potential prohibitions orders.”

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said last year that 40,000 people were arrested for possession of drugs and 8200 for drug supply.

“This power allows us to zero in on that supply chain and those people who were active in supplying drugs and manufacturing,” he said.

But advocacy and education groups remain sceptical whether the orders are the best approach, warning they may target those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Executive director of drug education organisation Unharm, Will Tregoning, said often those convicted of drug offences were from disadvantaged backgrounds or experiencing mental health issues and slapping a two-year order on them would not help.

He suggested the money should rather be redirected to rehabilitation services.

“They have substantial problems in their lives and this type of law enforcement ramp-up makes it more difficult to get help when they need it,” he said.

Similarly, the Ted Noffs Foundation’s acting chief executive officer Mark Ferry said a better way to disrupt drug supply might be to address underlying reasons and causes.

By doing so, there would be no need for the orders, he said.

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