Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (15:05): My question is for the minister representing the police minister. I have been contacted by Fitzroy Legal Service and a private criminal law firm who are acting for multiple clients of the medically supervised injecting room who have recently been charged with drug possession offences within the vicinity of the MSIR, most within 50 metres of the facility and one immediately outside the front door. It is categorical that the entire operation of the facility is dependent on the exercise of police discretion in not arresting clients at the centre. Clients must bring their own substances to the centre; it is not licensed to prescribe injectable opioids. It cannot save lives and reduce public injecting if clients are deterred from attending for fear of arrest. So my question is: does the government continue to support the exercise of police discretion for clients of the MSIR in that area, or has there been a change in the policing directive?
Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (15:06): I thank Ms Patten for her question and her ongoing concern around the operation
of the safe injecting room. This is a matter for the Minister for Police, and I will refer that matter to her for a response.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (15:07): Thank you, Minister. By supplementary, could I also ask that the minister speak to the Victoria Police local command to ensure that Victoria’s police officers understand the imperative of the exercise of discretion around the MSIR and receive routine training on that issue.
The PRESIDENT: The question should be, ‘Will the minister’, but anyway, I will allow it.
Ms PATTEN: Thank you. Yes.
Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (15:07): Again I thank Ms Patten for her supplementary question, which will again be referred to the Minister for Police for a response.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Question without notice 5/10/21
A written response was ordered for both the substantive and supplementary questions. Written response received:
Victoria Police advise that they continue to exercise discretion in relation to policing the conduct of persons in the vicinity of the Medically Supervised Injecting Room, as they do throughout Richmond.
That said, I am advised that if police observe persons committing offences including drug use or drug dealing anywhere outside the Medically Supervised Injecting Room, police will take action.
If, based on available evidence, a person found using drugs in public is considered to be in possession of drugs for personal use, the person will generally be eligible for a court diversion and court supervised drug treatment programmes. If a person is determined to be in possession of drugs for the purpose of drug trafficking, the person will be prosecuted for relevant drug trafficking offences.
Public drug use and drug dealing undermines community safety and public amenity and causes local residents to have significant concerns about their safety. Police have taken and will continue to take action to stop the illegal drug trade in the Richmond area and to stop illegal drugs being used in the parks, public spaces and alleyways of Richmond.
Police do not engage in enforcement activity in relation to the use or possession of drugs within the Medically Supervised Injecting Room.
The delivery of community safety is a priority for Victoria Police. It is the role of police to serve the Victorian community and uphold the law so as to promote a safe, secure and orderly society as outlined in the Victoria Police Act 2013 and reflected in the Victoria Police Code of Conduct.
Questions about how Victoria Police exercises its discretion and uses its powers are operational matters for Victoria Police that rely on their judgement. Under the Victoria Police Act the Minister for Police does not have the power to direct police operations or arrests.
The Hon Gayle Tierney MP
Minister for Training and Skills
Minister for Higher Education