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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77578 Find in a Library
Title: Judging Drug Abuse in New South Wales
Journal: Australian Crime Prevention Council Forum  Volume:4  Issue:1  Dated:(1981)  Pages:63-65,67-68
Author(s): K F E Torrington
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 5
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Australia
Annotation: This article presents the perspective of a criminal court judge in New South Wales (NSW), who explains Australian drug laws, the types of drug-related cases that come before the court, and the sentencing criteria applied to drug offenders.
Abstract: Contrary to common belief, drug-related cases constitute only a small part of the caseload of the higher courts (286 drug offenses out of 4,076 criminal indictments in NSW in 1978). More serious drug cases tend to be strongly contested, requiring more court time. Because of the severe sentences prescribed by law, juries tend to seek satisfaction of guilt beyond reasonable doubt in possession cases, where the reverse onus of proof is applicable. As the marijuana explosion began in the 1960's, heavy prison sentences were imposed for offenses which today receive no more than a fine. Sentencing provisions for cannabis trafficking remain discrepant: regardless of amount, a 10-year maximum is prescribed for trafficking cannabis in leaf form, while 25 years is the maximum for importing hashish or oil. Arrests for heroin offenses started to escalate in the 1970's. Heroin addicts often come before the courts for other serious crimes such as armed robbery, assaults, breaking and entering, and stealing. The possibility of a cure for heroin addiction through treatment programs is a dominant sentencing criterion, especially with lighter trafficking offenses. The seriousness of the crime and the harm caused remain the principal factors, however, followed by the involvement of the accused, the safety of the community, and other considerations. There has been a recent steady development of illicit trading operations with large cannabis plantations being uncovered throughout Australia. It is doubtful, if harsher sentences without improved detection efforts will deter these large-scale operators.
Index Term(s): Australia; Caseloads; Decisionmaking; Drug abuse; Drug law offenses; Drug regulation; Drug Related Crime; Federal drug laws; Judicial decisions; Sentencing/Sanctions
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