by CAA | Mar 18, 2023
Drunkenness has been a community issue since time immemorial, and there is no empirical data to show it is any worse or otherwise than it has been for many decades, relative to the size of the population.
Decriminalising public drunkenness is fixing a problem that does not exist to any significant degree.
As public drunkenness can be confused with homelessness, vagrancy, mental illness and drug abuse, it is, therefore, sensible that the ‘sobering up’ process should be done under medical supervision, which the Community Advocacy Alliance Inc. (CAA) supports. Equally, because the likelihood of belligerent behaviour is inclined to be more prevalent with drunkenness, securing and safety of these people and the community is and must remain a Police responsibility.
Once the affected person settles and the community is safe, the police can hand them to a facility where clinicians take responsibility.
This whole policy seems to have been designed by people without experience with drunks in the field.
Perhaps a little research should be undertaken, and then the proponents of this social adjustment may just find the number of persons convicted each year for drunkenness as a percentage of the population is meagre. And of those arrested and charged, even fewer are actually convicted, and no record of their indiscretion is recorded.
We reject absolutely the need for racial profiling in this process. Irrespective of the drunk’s heritage or race, they all need the same care.
Exposing the naivety of this proposal, the Herald Sun reports, “Patients at the sobering up site can only be taken with their consent and police or paramedics will need to step in if they become a safety risk or need urgent care.”
This statement alone raises very serious questions and exposes a lack of knowledge of a drunk person’s usual demeanour or the law.
- With decriminalising drunkenness, the Police have no power to ‘Step-in’ when the contractor’s management of the drunk goes pear-shaped.
- Drunks always consider they are not drunk enough to need care or admit to what they have consumed.
- A person who is perceived to be drunk cannot give Informed consent at law.
- Entering into a debate about sobriety, consent or otherwise, is a recipe for belligerence.
- Our experience is it would be a rare drunk who would agree to the time out in the drunk tank.
- How can a government sub-contractor physically intervene with a drunk?
- What happens when a drunk is involved in a crime, either as a victim or a perpetrator – it does happen?
- A serious risk assessment for contractors out on the street without powers is a disaster waiting to happen. The legal minefield this opens up for the liability of the government and contractors is breathtaking.
- Another legal minefield will occur when the drunk decides they are sober enough to leave the facility, but the clinicians know they are not. Holding them even with their uninformed consent would be unlawful. (currently, Police have four hours to detain somebody who is drunk.)
- Contractors will find difficulty hiring or retaining staff for this high-risk and filthy foul job.
- Another small matter is suitable transport for drunks. The inevitable mess that often is associated with their transport is why police use a Divisional Van that can be hosed out. Putting a drunk in a traditional vehicle is impractical as vomit and other bodily fluids often exuded by drunks tend to permeate every nook and cranny and cannot be removed easily.
- The consequence of placing multiple drunks in a facility not properly designed, quasi cells, will lead to inevitable conflict and a huge risk to clinicians.
All police know that when it is determined that a person is drunk, they must be decisive, not enter into debate and secure the drunk immediately to minimise the risk of injury to the drunk, the Police or the public. This skill is learnt and cannot be assumed to exist with untrained subcontractors. A questionnaire is no substitute for years of onsite experience.
The police power of arrest for drunk and disorderly must be left in place to protect the drunks, the Police and the public.