'Stop inquiring and start doing': Drug fix Dubbo needs

MAKING REPEATED REQUEST: Orana Law Society President Andrew Boog has again called on the NSW government to fund a drug court and residential rehabilitation facility in Dubbo.
MAKING REPEATED REQUEST: Orana Law Society President Andrew Boog has again called on the NSW government to fund a drug court and residential rehabilitation facility in Dubbo.

Crime rates would go down in Dubbo if the NSW government stopped inquiring and started setting-up a dedicated drug court and residential rehabilitation facility in the city.

That's the view of Orana Law Society President Andrew Boog who has reiterated calls for the government to urgently change the way the justice system responds to drug-fuelled crime in Dubbo.

Mr Boog said local legal community members raised the issue with the state's Attorney-General Mark Speakman when he visited Dubbo last month.

"He's a very approachable guy who's very easy to talk to. He seemed very receptive and responsive," Mr Boog said.

"But sadly - and this is no discredit to him - that's exactly the same reaction we've had every other time but nothing happened."

Mr Boog said he suspected the government did not want to spend money on building a drug court or residential rehabilitation facility in Dubbo.

"It's expensive, it's terribly expensive but it's cheaper than prison," he said.

"If it was going to be a net cost I could understand if they said there were more pressing priorities but the evidence is pretty clear that there are savings to be made."

While savings will not come immediately, Mr Boog said "the absence of reoffending [would] be significant and that's where the savings [would] be".

"It defies logic. I am yet to hear anybody come up with a proposition as to why a drug court is a bad idea.

"We have District Court judges, Local Court magistrates, prosecutors, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Aboriginal Legal Service, Legal Aid, the private profession and the police all singing from exactly the same song sheet on this."

Discussions about Dubbo's drug crime problems had "been going on for a decade", Mr Boog said.

A 2018 parliamentary inquiry found a drug court and rehabilitation service was needed in Dubbo and the government announced another inquiry into ice use before it formally responded to the initial inquiry.

"Stop inquiring and start doing would be a fantastic response," Mr Boog told the Daily Liberal.

"The drug court was an experiment, its been shown to work. Let's use it."

The federal government has committed $3 million to build a residential rehabilitation facility in Dubbo and Dubbo Regional Council said it would provide the land.

The government says it won't make a decision until the ice inquiry finishes next year.

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Mr Boog said a magistrate said he could not recall a domestic violence (DV) matter that did not involve drugs or alcohol.

"In other words, all DV that he saw in his court had drugs or alcohol in there somewhere," he said.

"As a community, we're saying we must do something about domestic violence. Maybe what we could do is say 'what is causing it?' and then having found the causes, do something to address them.

"Then we should look at what things work and what things don't work, let's stop looking at what doesn't work and start doing what does work.

"None of that is a great leap of logic but we don't do it."

Mr Boog said magistrates often dealt with criminals addicted to drugs and alcohol, who had been before the courts multiple times.

"They have two choices - release them back into the community under an order that they undergo counselling and that sort of thing - or send them to prison," he said.

"Lawyers want to give the magistrate a third option.

"The drug court is specifically tailored to drug and alcohol problems, similar to the way the Land and Environment Court deals with land and environment matters.

"Local Court magistrates have long lists and they don't have time to go and get an education on what drug abuse involves, they need to keep the list moving."

Some community members might be view a drug court as being soft on crime, Mr Boog conceded.

"It is a criminal problem - I certainly disagree that it's only a health problem.

"Drug courts acknowledge there's a huge health dimension to the issue and there has to be a treatment plan," he said.

"There also has to be a criminal process involved so there are sanctions for misbehaving but the underlying causes of the criminal behaviour are dealt with.

"We want a drug court and we want a residential rehab facility. One without the other is trying to run one-legged.

"It's a no-brainer.

"There are some who would say 'it does not look good if we've got one of the facilities' but it doesn't look good that we have got this much crime happening not just in Dubbo, but in this region."

This story 'Stop inquiring and start doing': The drug fix Dubbo needs first appeared on Daily Liberal.