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Labour continues hard line against drugs

1 September 2005

Labour continues hard line against drugs

Being under the influence of drugs will be considered an aggravating factor when criminals are sentenced, as part of Labour's continuing hard line on drugs and drug-fuelled crime.

"Those convicted of serious crime are increasingly seeking to avoid taking full responsibility for their actions by blaming methamphetamine or other drug use for their offending," Justice Minister Phil Goff said today, in releasing Labour's law and order policy.

"Hiding behind a 'P made me do it' excuse is not acceptable. The reality is that drug users recklessly place themselves and others at risk by their substance abuse, and their deliberate decision to do so should be taken into account by the Court in sentencing for subsequent offending.

"We will also amend the Sentencing Act to make offending that endangers or exposes a child to potential adverse effects – such as manufacturing methamphetamine at home – an aggravating factor at sentencing.

"These policies will be backed up by a continuation of Labour's record of on-going commitment to providing the resources and legislative support that law and order agencies need to combat the drugs trade, particularly methamphetamine, and organised crime.

"Over the last two years the Labour-led government has allocated over $50 million to specialist police squads busting the labs that produce the drugs; improving the intelligence and surveillance capabilities of police against gangs that traffick drugs, and strengthening border protection against importation.

"The impact has been huge. Police clan-lab teams have detected and closed down hundreds of meth labs. Customs has intercepted and seized record levels of methamphetamine and its precursors. ESR has now cleared the backlog of its cases and is undertaking analysis in real time.

"We have passed legislation making trafficking in methamphetamine an offence carrying a sentence of up to life imprisonment, while the importation of meth precursors has been banned. Police and Customs now have far greater powers to tackle drug crime. Tougher laws covering participation in a criminal gang have seen a dramatic increase in the number of prosecutions – 76 last year, compared to a total of 16 for the previous five years.

"New legislation, introduced to Parliament just before the election, will enable the state to confiscate the assets of the criminal gangs that control the meth trade. This will seriously reduce the profitability of their activities; act as a disincentive and disrupt their capacity to finance further criminal activity.

"The initiatives promised for the next term of a Labour-led government build on the record resources Labour has already committed to fighting crime across the board.

"Since 1999, the Police budget has been increased by over a quarter, and this year it will exceed $1 billion for the first time. With the additional 250 community police announced a fortnight ago, and the 265 new positions funded in this year's Budget, around 1650 additional police positions will have been created under Labour and staff numbers will top 10,000 for the first time ever.

"This record stands in stark contrast to the last National-led government, which promised more police but instead cut budgets and announced planned police cuts.

"The official crime statistics released last week show the impact of Labour's commitment to law and order. The crime rate has fallen to its lowest level since 1981 and is now 25 per cent below its peak in 1996/97," Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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