Northern Rivers drug driving rate 5 times state average

WEDNESDAY: RESEARCH showing the Northern Rivers leading the state in roadside drug convictions is unsurprising, a Southern Cross University (SCU) lecturer has said.

SCU Law and Justice Lecturer, Aiden Ricketts said BCSR research findings which showed the Richmond Tweed area conviction rate for drug driving is more than five times the state average didn't shock him, because of the amount of policing which has taken place in the area and the targeted nature of it.

"None of the issues have changed really, they can tell us that they do more testing and get more convictions...but that doesn't answer any of the initial criticisms that the testing regime isn't based on any evidence of driving impairment", Mr Ricketts said.

"Without a breakdown of the figures we don't really know how much of it is cannabis and how much of it is other drugs (speed and ecstasy). But what we do know is they aren't going to be picking up cocaine figures from Sydney because they don't test for it, but they are going to be picking up cannabis figures for the Northern Rivers."

Mr Ricketts acknowledged whilst NSW Police may be able to establish a connection between roadside testing and convictions, there is no established link of what they test for and any real impairment of driving when it comes to cannabis.

He said the main criticism of the testing regime continues to be that it's not based on any evidence of driving impairment.

Anecdotally around Northern Rivers towns there has been a lot of targeting in places such as Nimbin, especially during Mardigrass and festivals.

"The Northern Rivers is a big place where festivals happen and just because you test a festival doesn't mean you're getting a picture of the demographics of the region," he said.

Townsfolk have reported once they have been detected positive to drug use, they are repeatedly pulled over on the road.

The growth in license disqualification has led to a surge in people being convicted driving while disqualified and

Mr Ricketts said this is an unsurprising issue for people in the area.

The Northern Rivers is renowned for a lack of public transport options.

"People feel they have no choice getting to work and medical appointments," he said.

 

TUESDAY: THE conviction rate for drug driving on the Northern Rivers is more than five times the state average, new research has found.

A new report by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found that the number of people facing charges of drug driving more than tripled in the 24 months to June 2016.

In the financial year 2014/15, 2,331 drug driving charges were finalised in the NSW Local Court.

In the 2015/16 financial year, that number rose to 9,808, an increase of 320%.

The overwhelming majority of persons found guilty of drug driving offences were males (79.3%) and persons aged between 18 and 39 years (72.4%).

Surprisingly, the rate of prosecution was two times higher in Regional NSW than the state average (180 per 100,000 compared to 93 per 100,000).

Particularly high rates of drug driving were found in the Richmond Tweed area, where the conviction rate for drug driving is more than five times the state rate.

Almost all drug driving charges brought to court are proven.

The most common penalties imposed are fines and Section 10 bonds (i.e. no conviction recorded), however approximately 80% of persons found guilty also received a period of mandatory licence disqualification in addition to their principal penalty.

The growth in license disqualification has led to a surge in people being convicted driving while disqualified.

The number of offenders previously found guilty of drug driving and later being found guilty of driving while disqualified more than tripled (from 133 to 542) in the 12 months to June 2016 compared with the 12 months to June 2015.


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