The management of public drunkenness in Western Australia: policing the unpoliceable?
Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies, 2017, 23(1), 1 – 24.
This paper examines the role of the criminal justice system in managing public order consequences from the problematic use of alcohol in Western Australia (WA) from its beginnings as a British colony in the 1830s up to the recent present.
For much of this period until 1990, the dominant approach relied on a broad police power to arrest and charge anyone perceived to be intoxicated in a public place. This reliance on the criminalisation of drunkenness resulted in large numbers of individuals appearing in Magistrate Courts, who, if reoffenders, were exposed to extended terms of imprisonment calculated not to rehabilitate but to punish and isolate. Decriminalisation of public intoxication occurred in 1990, as the result of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC), which established a framework outside the criminal justice system for police to formally divert intoxicated people to sobering up centres (SUCs) instead of detaining them overnight in lock ups.
The paper examines recent reforms of laws which extend the policing of public order through expanded methods of social control involving an array of mechanisms, such as move on notices, infringements and banning orders, to underpin coercive policing and exclusion of those who may threaten social order. Without increased critical review and oversight of these reforms it is argued we may see a return to discredited policies of earlier times which were heavily reliant on the criminal justice system to respond to problematic use of alcohol, again raising the spectre of policing the unpoliceable.
Public space and alcohol advertising: exploratory role of local government.
International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research, 2016, 5(3), 117 – 123.
The paper argues that local government bodies in Western Australia, which have a long-standing key role in overseeing public health standards and regulating business activities, potentially have a major, but under-recognized, capability to regulate the promotion and advertising of alcohol in public places.
It is contended that because local government bodies already possess extensive statutory powers to undertake this function, there is a compelling case for them to actively regulate alcohol advertising as they “own” most of the public space in Australian cities and towns. Accordingly, local government is uniquely placed to perform a front-line role in regulating alcohol advertising in public places because of the reliance on community-based processes of consultation and decision-making for planning, as well as regarding this as an extension of a long standing role concerned with the advancement of public health and traffic safety.
Swensen G & Crofts T.
Recent developments in cannabis law reform: the rise & fall of the cannabis infringement notice scheme in Western Australia
Flinders Law Journal, 2010, 12, 79 - 103.
In early 2004 in both the United Kingdom (UK) and Western Australia (WA) introduced reforms to avoid the legal harms associated with minor cannabis offenders appearing before the courts. As the reforms involved different approaches for police to divert someone who had committed an offence they highlight the pitfalls, merits and lessons in reform cannabis laws for other jurisdictions contemplating reforms.
Compared to legislatively prescriptive approach adopted by the WA Cannabis Infringement Notice (CIN) scheme which was based on a separate piece of legislation, the Cannabis Control Act 2003, in the UK police discretion was key aspect of when a cannabis warning could be issued. The context leading up to reform is contrasted, as in WA the CIN scheme was introduced by a reformist Government soon after a Royal Commission into police misconduct had been completed, whereas in the UK the reform was incremental in nature and built upon measures adopted to improve relations between police, young people and minority groups.
This article suggests that the extensive use of police discretion, as was followed in the UK, is a preferable model for managing minor cannabis offending. Compared to the UK model, the WA CIN scheme involved complex eligibility and compliance requirements, was difficult to administer and resulted in a substantially more cannabis offenders coming to official attention than before the reform.
The CIN scheme was repealed in October 2010 by the Cannabis Law Reform Act 2010 and additional provisions were added to the Misuse of
Drugs Act 1981 that established a system of compelled attendance at education sessions through a Cannabis intervention Requirement (CIR) for first time offenders who had commmitted a more narrowly defined set of cannabis offences than under the CIN scheme.
Swensen G & Crofts T.
Reforms to minor cannabis offences in the United Kingdom & Western Australia.
Web Journal of Current Legal Issues, 2005, 1.
The paper examines the different approaches followed in the United Kingdom (UK) & Western Australia (WA) that were introduced in each jurisdiction in January & March 2004 respectively in relation to how police might deal with minor cannabis offenders.
In WA new legislation established the criteria and framework for police to issue a cannabis infringement notice (CIN), with a scale of monetary penalties, to a person who committed any of four expiable offences. If the offender expiated the infringement notice within 28 days by either paying the penalty or attending a cannabis education session (CES) there are no further consequences. Compared to the WA scheme, in the UK police discretion was formalised through guidelines issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), which provided the option of cautioning an offender who possessed an amount of cannabis considered as being for personal use.
A common theme in both jurisdictions is that these measures did not disturb the underlying principle that cannabis continued to remain illegal, that the reforms were accompanied by an expansion in the scope of the law in relation to those who commit supply offences and that juveniles were excluded. The article notes the reform process was largely conducted by expert groups with oversight by parliamentary committees & that in both jurisdictions government sought to present reform as a measure that would better manage the health and conviction harms due to the criminalisation of cannabis.
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Swensen G & Prior J.
Law reform concerning minor cannabis offences in WA
Brief (Journal of Law Society of Western Australia), 2004, 31(4), 13-16.
This article outlines the background to the CIN scheme, which commenced on 22 March 2004, following the passage of the Cannabis Control Act 2003 through the Western Australian Parliament on 23 September 2003. The introduction of the CIN scheme meant that WA became the fourth Australian jursidiction to decriminalise minor cannabis offences. The article discusses some of the goals of the CIN scheme, its major provisions and how it built upon & refined the three established schemes in 2003 that expiated minor cannabis offences, in South Australia (SA), the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory (NT).
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Hargreaves K, Lenton S, Phillips M & Swensen G.
Potential impacts on the incidence of fatal heroin-related overdose in Western Australia, a time series analysis.
Drug & Alcohol Review, 2002, 21, 321-327.
- Swensen G.
The drug war - Asian style. A study of legal measures adopted to combat illegal drug use in Singapore and China.
E-Law - Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, 1999, 6(1).
The article identified unexpected similarities in the legal & administrative structures in the responses by these two jurisdictions to those who use illicit drugs, given that Singapore’s is a literate and wealth society and has a legal system steeped in many common law principles through it being a former British colony, whereas the PRC has a history deeply steeped in Confucianist values. Both countries follow a policy of ‘zero tolerance’ which emphasises severe criminal sanctions to punish users of illicit drugs and places a heavy reliance on detention by administrative action of individuals in detoxification centres.
Click here to view or download a PDF version (45k) of this study.
- Swensen G.
Female genital mutilation and human rights.
Australian Social Work, 1995, 48, 27-33.
The paper specifically considers the consequences if claims of cultural relativism were extended to FGM, as the practice would be justified as culturally mandated. Such an outcome would mean that Australia and other jurisdictions would thereby fail to recognise FGM as a transgression of a number of universal human rights contained in instruments ratified under the aegis of the United Nations, to which many countries, including Australia, are signatories.
Click here to view or download a PDF version (229k) of this article.
- Swensen G.
Drug problems in Western Australia. A review of non criminal mechanisms to regulate drug users by use of the Health Act 1911.
E-Law - Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, 1994, 1(3).
This paper examined a system established under the Health Act 1911, which has operated in WA since 1958, that requires a medical practitioner to notify the Executive Director Public Health if the doctor is aware or suspects that a person is addicted to a drug specified in the Eighth Schedule of the Poisons Act 1964. (Eighth Schedule drugs are defined as being drugs of addiction.) The paper includes an examination of the administrative procedures instituted under the Drugs of Addiction Notification Regulations 1980 & whether the rules of procedural fairness could be implied as to how the regulations & the associated Register of notified addicts operate.
Click here to view or download a PDF version (205k) of this paper.
- Swensen G, Ilett KF, Dusci LJ, Hackett LP, Ong RTT, Quigley AJ, Lenton S, Saker R & Caporn J.
Patterns of drug use by participants in the WA methadone program, 1984-1991.
Medical Journal of Australia, 1993, 159, 373-376.
- Swensen G, Quigley A & Lenton S.
Hepatitis B infection - a proxy measure of risk factors for HIV infection in IDUs? (Letter to Editor).
Medical Journal of Australia, 1990, 153, 434-435.
- Swensen G.
The cost of the Western Australian methadone program.
Australian Drug/Alcohol Review, 1989, 8, 35-37.
A study of the cost of the WA methadone program for the year 1986, when methadone treatment was only provided through a public methadone program based at William Street Clinic, operated by the WA Alcohol & Drug Authority.
Click here to view or download a PDF version (25k) of this paper.
- Swensen G.
Opioid drug deaths in Western Australia: 1974 – 1984.
Australian Drug/Alcohol Review, 1988, 7, 181-185.
A study of the 108 opioid related deaths in Western Australia (WA) in the 11 year period from 1974 to 1984, found that nearly two thirds of these were due to the use of licit opioids. Whilst the most frequent licit opoid related death was due to propoxyphene, an important finding was that 19 deaths were due to methadone - most of which occurred at a time when methadone was unregulated & prescribed & dispensed by private practitioners.
- Quigley AJ, Seow SSW, Ilett KF, Dusci L, Swensen G, Harrison-Stewart A & Rappeport L.
Buprenorphine detoxification after maintenance treatment.
Australian Drug/Alcohol Review, 1987, 6, 5-10.
- Seow SW, Quigley AJ, Ilett KF, Dusci LJ, Swensen G, Harrison-Stewart A & Rappeport L.
Buprenorphine: a new maintenance opiate?
Medical Journal of Australia, 1986, 144, 407-411.
Click here to view or download a PDF version (41k) of this paper.
- Seow S, Swensen G, Willis D, Hartfield M & Chapman C.
Extraneous drug use in methadone-supported patients.
Medical Journal of Australia, 1980, 1, 269-271.
Presentations At Conferences
Click here to go to a page with details of presentations at conferences, workshops & seminars, involving both current & past research interests.
Reform of minor cannabis laws in Western Australia, the United Kingdom & New Zealand (2006)
This publication examines in some detail the history of cannabis law reform in WA, the UK & New Zealand (NZ). These three case studies are accompanied by a review of decriminalisation of cannabis in a number of Western countries. The publication includes an examination of some of the reasons for reform failing to occur in NZ, even though it shares similarities with WA and the UK in the evolution of drug policy and the legal framework for criminalising cannabis & other drugs.
The report discusses how over the past three decades there has been intense and sustained debate in a number of major Western countries about the wisdom of the criminal justice system continuing to severely punish offenders by fines and even imprisonment due to the adoption of policies that prohibit the use, possession and cultivation of cannabis. This debate has proceeded against a background of apparent failure of the prohibition of cannabis, as there have been a large and growing number of young adults who have been exposed to cannabis.
The discussion also refers to growing evidence that some of those who have been charged and received criminal convictions with attendant deleterious effects on their employment and wellbeing has forced policy makers to re-evaluate the justification for continuing to criminalise cannabis. The thesis consists of the following chapters:
- Introduction (Ch 1)
- Drug law enforcement & drug markets (Ch 2)
- Models of cannabis law reform (Ch 3)
- Case studies of cannabis law reform (Ch 4)
- Decriminalisation of cannabis - What is known? (Ch 5)
- Consequences of cannabis law reform (Ch 6)
- Lessons from cannabis law reform (Ch 7)
Click here to go to the Murdoch University Digital These Program to view or download the full report, as separate chapters (PDFs).
The 2004 cannabis law reforms in Western Australia & the United Kingdom: A case of too much caution?
Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag Dr. Müeller, 2008. [ISBN: 978-3-639-03177-5]
This 360 page monograph is based on the above thesis which was submitted in October 2006 as a major requirment of a LLM at Murdoch University. It was published in mid 2008 by the German publishers academic VDM Verlag Dr Müller. It is available for online purchase through a number of online booksellers.
Departmental Reports & Papers
Click here to go to a page for details of:
- reports written between 1991 & 1997 published by the Epidemiology & Research Branch of the Health Department of WA; and
- statistical bulletins published between 1996 & 2008 which compiled data concerning trends in areas such as opioid related deaths, distribution of needles & syringes, drug offences & drug seizures, drug related telphone calls & utilisation of sobering up centres.
Australian drug arrests, 1995/1996 - 2009/2010 (2011)
This paper presents trends for annual arrests in both tables & graphs from data extracted from statistical summaries contained in Australian Illicit Drug Data Report published annually by the Australian Crime Commission.
The report provides annual counts for each Australian jurisdiction of cannabis charges broken down by seriousness (ie consumer & provider) offences, as well as the number of cannabis infringement notices issued in the jurisdictions where expiation schemes operated over this period.
Additional breakdowns are contained in tables which have both WA & national data in relation to arrests involving heroin & other opioids, amphetamine type stimulants (ATS) & cannabis.
Click here to view or download a PDF (493k) version of this publication.
A study of convictions for drug offences in Western Australia, 2002-2006 (2008)
This paper was written in June 2008 and contains an analysis of summarised data to understand & identify trends in drug related convictions recorded in the lower courts in WA over the five year 2002-2006.
The paper provides both annual and quarterly breakdowns of counts of convictions for charges laid under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 in relation to Section 5 offences (offences concerned with premises, implements & utensils), Section 6 offences (offences concerned with prohibited drugs) and Section 7 offences (offences concerned with prohibited plants). Within each of these three categories of offences, the paper also includes a breakdown of the number of charges by gender, age group, type of court, drug group and conviction outcome.
Click here to view or download a PDF version (508k) of this paper.
Alcohol caused mental disorders in Western Australia with reference to the Indigenous population, 1981-1991 (1996)
This paper was written in 1996 and involves an analysis of trends in hospitalisation due to alcoholic psychoses in WA over the period 1981 to 1992 by examining the prevalence of this mental disorder in the Indigenous population compared with the non-Indigenous population in WA.
The context of the study was to develop a better understanding of four interrelated issues involved in Indigenous deaths in custody - incarceration in police cells, alcoholism & acute intoxication, alcohol caused disorders of ideation and perception and suicide.
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The management of radiation hazards from the mining of mineral sands in Western Australia (1996)
This paper was written in 1996 & considers the approach followed in Western Australia (WA) for dealing with the environmental hazards of ionising radiation associated with the mining & processing of titaniferous minerals contained in mineral sands deposits. The paper refers to growing public awareness of the risks posed by one of these minerals, monazite, which emits low levels of radiation as it contains thorium & uranium, which has resulted in greater public scrutiny of practices adopted by the mineral sands industry to address the occupational & public health risks that arise from mining and processing.
Click here to view or download a PDF version (135k) of this paper.
Management of old growth forests in accordance with national objectives: Western Australian experience (1996)
This paper was written in 1996 as a case study of the recent history in WA in regard to the development of mechanisms to adequately recognise and protect conservation values that are inherent in old growth forests. The paper includes discussion of some of the mechanisms utilised in the US to manage these precious resources, which in WA, as they have been severely exploited, now exist as remnants.
The paper also refers to the increasingly important role played by the Commonweatlh as a pacesetter for a set of national environmental standards, often after protracted negotiation and on occasions resolved only after unsuccessful constitutional challenge.
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Drug offender diversion: A review of some of the issues (1995)
This paper written in June 1995 and reviews the development of the concept of diverting offenders from the criminal justice system to treatment programs, covering the broad period from the Vera Institute's 1968 court diversion scheme up to the early 1990s.
The paper discusses the establishment of formal diversion schemes for drug dependent offenders & canvasses a number of advantages of these schemes, including minimisation of the stigma and ostracism associated with conviction. The paper also outlines a number of reservations about diversion schemes, including they may be experimental in nature, been setup for non-therapeutic purposes or to access Commonwealth funded health services.
Click here to view or download a PDF version (176k) of this paper.
Aboriginal law in action. A brief report on a field trip to Aboriginal sacred sites in Perth, September 1994
This paper (with photos) was written in in September 1994 & describes a guided tour of sites of significance in the Perth metropolitan area. As noted in the paper - "Many of the sites had only survived because of very determined efforts by small numbers of activists & concerned scientists who had helped to build flimsy dikes around tiny fragments of the former diverse cultural matrix that had existed throughout the metro area before British 'settlement' in 1829. Over time, up to the present day, these remnants had been continually overwhelmed by 'progress'."
Click here to view or download a PDF version (276k) of this paper.
Inequality of health between Aborigines & non-Aborigines (1994)
This paper was written in November 1994 by a comparative analysis of available information concerning measures of health, including data from the 1994 WA Task Force on Aboriginal Social Justice, to develop an understanding of Indigenous inequality in Australian society. The paper argues that resources need to be directed to economic development initiatives, for otherwise most Indigenous people in Australia will remain in poverty & unable to exercise any right of self-determination.
Click here to view or download a PDF version (60k) of this paper.
Heroin addiction & treatment: A case study of the Western Australian methadone program, 1973 - 1989 (1990)
This paper was written in 1990 as a case study. It contains a detailed history of methadone treatment in WA covering the period from late 1973, when methadone treatment became available in WA, to the end 1989. This research covers the period from when methadone was initially prescribed by a limited number of private practitioners & then restricted to public prescribers because of over prescribing & extensive abuse & overdoses due to diversion. The study identifies & described a number of phases of policy that occurred up to December 1989. It was submitted in December 1990 as a thesis for the requirements of a MA in Public Policy at Murdoch University.
Click here to view or download a PDF version (455k) of this study.
To regulate or not: Politicians, prostitution & the police (1989)
This paper was written in September 1989 & considers the implications of WA's containment policy developed by the police over a number of years which has regulated prostitution in WA by maintaining a system of preferred operators.
Click here to view or download a PDF version (192k) of this paper.
The state & the alcohol industry in Western Australia (1985)
This paper was originally published in the March-April 1985 issue of Social Work News. It discusses some of the implications from the release in 1984 of the reports from two official inquiries in WA, with particular reference to the Royal Commission Appointed to Inquire into the Liquor Laws, which was chaired by Judge Syme of the Licensing Court.
Click here to view or download a PDF version (188k) of this paper.
South West Forest Defence Foundation
Non-compliance with the provisions for environmental protection in the Marri Woodchip Project Environmental Impact Statement (1979)
Based on a survey conducted in April 1979 by a number of members of the SWFDF, including myself, which was published by South West Forest Defence Foundation in May 1979.
Click here to view or download a PDF version (2.4 MB) of this paper.