Fianna Fáil calls for relaxing of criminal offences for drugs

Policy paper also says single injection centre should be introduced on a pilot basis

People caught with small amounts of drugs shuld be directed towards healthcare rather than immediately convicted of a criminal offence, according to a new policy being put forward by Fianna Fáil.  Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times.

People caught with small amounts of drugs shuld be directed towards healthcare rather than immediately convicted of a criminal offence, according to a new policy being put forward by Fianna Fáil. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times.

 

People caught with small amounts of drugs shuld be directed towards healthcare rather than immediately convicted of a criminal offence, according to a new policy being put forward by Fianna Fáil.

The proposal from Dublin West TD Jack Chambers, the party’s spokesman on community and the national drugs strategy, was taken on by the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party this week.

Mr Chambers circulated a policy document to his colleagues and it said Fianna Fáil should examine a model of “delayed criminalisation” when people are caught with drugs for personal use.

In such cases, people would be directed towards healthcare and treatment centres.

“We should explore the introduction of a delayed criminalisation model where drug offences, currently defined for personal usage, are directed towards proper treatment and intervention so healthcare is prioritised over a criminal justice and prison process that only reinforces addiction and deprivation,” according to Mr Chambers’ policy.

“It is important that this model would be properly codified, constructed and formalised to ensure that people with drug addiction are given the opportunity and chance to overcome addiction. If the healthcare intervention is not cooperated with and drug offences re-occur beyond the codified amount, then the normal criminal justice process comes into effect. This formalises what many judges are already doing on an ad hoc and informal basis.”

The policy paper also says that injection centres, which were championed by former Labour minister Aodhán O’Ríordáin, should only be introduced on a pilot basis - and that only one centre should be opened on such a basis.

“With regard to the proposals to establish a medically supervised injecting centre, Fianna Fáil understands the concern about such centres but would agree to a trial period in one designated centre. The pilot centre must be closely monitored and there must be regular liaison with the Gardaí about its operation.”

Mr Chambers also argued for greater treatment, rehabilitation, therapeutic and aftercare services, particularly the roll-out on a pilot basis of therapeutic communities within prisons.

His document will be the Fianna Fáil submission to the drafting of a National Drugs Strategy by the Government.