Tele/ Northern Star: Former Northern Rivers magistrate slams current drug laws as ‘catastrophic’ for our community

A former Northern Rivers magistrate has spoken out about the cases that made him reconsider his career, stating current drug laws are “catastrophic” for our community.

David Heilpern manned court in Lismore and across the Northern Rivers before becoming an active lobbyist for drug law reform.

Just recently Mr Heilpern spoke at MardiGrass in a discussion titled, ‘Why we will be the last country in the world to change our drug laws’.

Now speaking again on Monday night with Greens candidate for Richmond Mandy Nolan, Mr Heilpern said Australia was “getting left a long way behind” other countries in terms of medical prescription and drug driving.

“In the end, that was one of the main factors for me, was the drug driving laws,” he said.

“About 30 people a week I was taking their licences off them when clearly they were not affected.

“And I say clearly they were not affected because if they were, they would have been charged with the more serious charge of driving while affected.”

He said for regional communities like the Northern Rivers, a lost licence was even more detrimental, leading many to get caught in the prison system.

“It’s just a ridiculous law and I found driving home after work after taking 10-15 people’s driver’s licences off them, I just thought ‘I can’t keep doing this’,” Mr Heilpern said.

“It’s no minor thing… 120,000 tests this year in NSW and thousands and thousands of people – up to 8000 people ‒ losing their licence.

“Those people, many of them I would say, will lose their jobs, will lose their houses.

“This is catastrophic for many people.”

He also claimed there had been no “impact on the road toll” from drug drivers, noting one case where an accused person had been caught by police nine days after using drugs.

In posing solutions for the current legislation, he said it would depend on several factors including a “progressive opposition” party, changing the attitude of police themselves and more.

“As a young lawyer I represented people charged with prostitution, well that’s gone as an offence,” Mr Heilpern said.

“And abortion, that’s gone as an offence. Homosexuality, that’s gone. Gambling or bookmaking ‒ all gone.

“I expected drug law reform to follow along and it just hasn’t.”

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