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Mussenden proposes cannabis caution policy

People caught with less than three grams of cannabis will receive formal cautions, under a new “three strikes” draft policy unveiled by Director of Public Prosecutions Larry Mussenden.

On being arrested for a third time, the offender will have to undergo drug assessment or drug counselling or face being sent to court for prosecution.

In a statement, Mr Mussenden said that under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, a provision was created to allow the DPP to give guidance for a formal police caution policy for appropriate offences.

“Thereafter, I announced that I would consider a guidance for a police caution policy in respect of simple possession of cannabis,” he said. “I stated that I would welcome input from the community.

“Also, at that time I reached out to various agencies for their views on a police caution policy for simple possession of cannabis.

“I have drafted a guidance for a police caution policy for simple possession of cannabis. I am pleased to release a draft of the guidance for a caution policy today as information to the general public.

“I intend to formally bring the guidance for a police caution policy into effect once the Police and Criminal Evidence Amendment Act 2016 is brought into operation by the Honourable Attorney-General by way of a notice in the Official Gazette.”

He said that in order to create the policy, he consulted with a number of bodies and members of the public, who provided a wide range of recommendations.

“The submissions ranged along the spectrum of how a police caution policy should be structured from a blanket caution for all cannabis to having a limited number of cautions, and to having some conditions in order to obtain a caution,” he said.

“Other aspects were urged such as reducing the number of people being convicted, preventing the harmful impact of drugs on society, preventing initiation and use of drugs in youth in order to protect the developing brain, protecting minors from drug use which leads to drug abuse as an adult, preventing unintentional accidents, preventing diversion of funds to drugs and to promoting health education generally.”

The key points for the policy as laid out by Mr Mussenden are:

• the weight of the cannabis must be under three grams;

• an offender must admit to possession of the cannabis;

• an offender must not have other drugs on them at the time of the seizure/search;

• children offenders under 18 years of age will be referred to Child & Family services;

• on a first and second arrest for possession of cannabis, a first caution and second caution respectively may be granted;

• on a third arrest for possession, a caution may be granted on the following conditions: A person will be bailed from the police station to return to the police station three months later — such time to be used to complete some tasks; an assessment must be made by BARC, an offender must undergo a minimum of 12 hours of drug counselling and an offender should pass a drug test.

If the conditions are met, then a third caution will be issued — otherwise the offender will be sent to court for prosecution.

• on a fourth arrest within two years of a third caution, the offender will not be eligible for a fourth caution;

• upon two years passing from the date of the third caution, an offender is re-eligible for a first caution.

“It is a pleasure to release this guidance for a caution policy for cannabis,” Mr Mussenden concluded.

Mr Mussenden said: “It is designed to steer offenders away from the courts with all the consequences arising from convictions, builds in a three strikes policy, and involves counselling and drug testing. The policy is designed to allow our people to pursue their life and career objectives and to be productive, healthy and successful members of the community.”