Updated: Debono 'reservations' on new arrest referral scheme
First time offenders found carrying drug for their exclusive use will have the option to opt not to go through court proceedings if a scheme moved for consultation today is finally adopted.
The consultation process, launched by Justice Minister Chris Said, is open until August 10.
Introducing the scheme, Dr Said said the proposal was made by the National Commission on the Abuse of Drugs, Alcohol and Other Dependencies and is in line with government policy to fight traffickers but help victims.
Through the Arrest Referral Scheme, first time offenders would have the option to avoid court proceedings and keep their record clean by taking up another process which would see them get all the necessary help to kick the habit.
Dr Said insisted that the government wanted to increase its efforts to fight drug trafficking but help victims.
Commission chairman Marilyn Clark explained that for a first time offender to be eligible he would have to admit to the offence.
Once the person is arrested, checks would be carried out to find out whether he had a previous drug conviction and if he wasfound to be clean, the police will call in an arrest referral officer, who would guide the offender on the procedure and give him the choice whether to go ahead with the normal court proceedings or benefit from the scheme.
If the offender opted for the scheme, he would appear before an extra judicial body made up of a chairman and two experts in the drug rehabilitation field.
The aim of the judicial body will be to guide the person out of the problem and impose measures depending on the case.
If these conditions were breached, the police would be able to take action in the magistrates' court. However, anything that happened before the body would not impact the criminal case, Dr Clark stressed.
FRANCO DEBONO HAS 'SERIOUS RESERVATIONS'
Nationalist MP Franco Debono in a comment to timesofmalta.com said he had 'serious reservations' about the proposal and feared it would not actually achieve anything.
He said the current system could continue to be used, with enhancements, rather than creating a parallel system.
The new system, he said, would complicate matters possibly without any tangible improvement.
Dr Debono siad that reform of the drug laws was one of the points in his private members’ motion, currently being debated in Parliament, and he had already expressed his reservations about these proposals during that debate. He had also proposed the enhancement of the current system without trying to reinvent the wheel.
First offenders, he said, were already being granted conditional discharge and probation orders which did not figure in the conduct sheet.