19th March 2023

Public drunkenness is now under partisan political consideration—another half-baked approach to Public Policy.

Drunkenness has been a community issue since time immemorial, and there is no empirical data to show it is any worse or otherwise than it has been for many decades, relative to the size of the population.

Decriminalising public drunkenness is fixing a problem that does not exist to any significant degree.

As public drunkenness can be confused with homelessness, vagrancy, mental illness and drug abuse, it is, therefore, sensible that the ‘sobering up’ process should be done under medical supervision, which the Community Advocacy Alliance Inc. (CAA) supports. Equally, because the likelihood of belligerent behaviour is inclined to be more prevalent with drunkenness, securing and safety of these people and the community is and must remain a Police responsibility.

Once the affected person settles and the community is safe, the police can hand them to a facility where clinicians take responsibility.

This whole policy seems to have been designed by people without experience with drunks in the field.

Perhaps a little research should be undertaken, and then the proponents of this social adjustment may just find the number of persons convicted each year for drunkenness as a percentage of the population is meagre. And of those arrested and charged, even fewer are actually convicted, and no record of their indiscretion is recorded.

We reject absolutely the need for racial profiling in this process. Irrespective of the drunk’s heritage or race, they all need the same care.

Exposing the naivety of this proposal, the Herald Sun reports, “Patients at the sobering up site can only be taken with their consent and police or paramedics will need to step in if they become a safety risk or need urgent care.”

This statement alone raises very serious questions and exposes a lack of knowledge of a drunk person’s usual demeanour or the law.

  1. With decriminalising drunkenness, the Police have no power to ‘Step-in’ when the contractor’s management of the drunk goes pear-shaped.
  2. Drunks always consider they are not drunk enough to need care or admit to what they have consumed.
  3. A person who is perceived to be drunk cannot give Informed consent at law.
  4. Entering into a debate about sobriety, consent or otherwise, is a recipe for belligerence.
  5. Our experience is it would be a rare drunk who would agree to the time out in the drunk tank.
  6. How can a government sub-contractor physically intervene with a drunk?
  7. What happens when a drunk is involved in a crime, either as a victim or a perpetrator – it does happen?
  8. A serious risk assessment for contractors out on the street without powers is a disaster waiting to happen. The legal minefield this opens up for the liability of the government and contractors is breathtaking.
  9. Another legal minefield will occur when the drunk decides they are sober enough to leave the facility, but the clinicians know they are not. Holding them even with their uninformed consent would be unlawful. (currently, Police have four hours to detain somebody who is drunk.)
  10. Contractors will find difficulty hiring or retaining staff for this high-risk and filthy foul job.
  11. Another small matter is suitable transport for drunks. The inevitable mess that often is associated with their transport is why police use a Divisional Van that can be hosed out. Putting a drunk in a traditional vehicle is impractical as vomit and other bodily fluids often exuded by drunks tend to permeate every nook and cranny and cannot be removed easily.
  12. The consequence of placing multiple drunks in a facility not properly designed, quasi cells, will lead to inevitable conflict and a huge risk to clinicians.

All police know that when it is determined that a person is drunk, they must be decisive, not enter into debate and secure the drunk immediately to minimise the risk of injury to the drunk, the Police or the public. This skill is learnt and cannot be assumed to exist with untrained subcontractors. A questionnaire is no substitute for years of onsite experience.

The police power of arrest for drunk and disorderly must be left in place to protect the drunks, the Police and the public.

A pattern is now evolving with Political police. This is currently developing into the go-to solution for government initiatives. These new ‘Drunks Police’ have all the hallmarks of another enforcement arm of the government, as we experienced during the COVID pandemic.

Every Victorian should be very concerned about this move as it can lead to a Socialist state policed by Political apparatchiks who are not accountable to the State but to a political party. Untrained but politically accountable without independence to apply the drunks policy impartially.

Rather than contracting out these services, perhaps that funding should be applied to Policing and Ambulance services rather than an expensive contracting arrangement with our money, or will that money be borrowed?

With minimal cost, ‘Drunk Tanks’ are the answer and are legally more palatable. Drunks or other intoxicated people can be placed in clinicians’ care at these Tanks, and the problem is effectively solved.

It certainly gives the impression that those pushing these reforms care little about the individuals or do not comprehend the likely consequential outcomes and effects.

What is most disturbing is that the government is seeking solutions from bidding contractors, “..bidders have also been asked detail how their staff will respond to difficult situations.” Herald Sun 15th March ’23.

This proposition is preposterous, to say the least – how does a proper tendering process work if the bidder writes the policy? There is no way this can be an efficient or reasonable tendering process, with each bidder making their own rules, and it is an admission beyond doubt that the government does not know what it is doing and hopes a contractor will.

This issue has a whiff of appeasing a small cabal of extremists who claim to represent all of us. Well, they do not.

The only plan we can detect is a plan to introduce unnecessary change, popular with a small number of social reformers, intent on breaking down the structure of our democratic society and, in turn, our democracy, with crime and substance abuse rampant, destroying a sizeable ever-growing cohort of wasted lives at an astronomical cost to the community.

Drunk Tanks are like Drug shooting galleries – they do not address the issue but perpetuate it.

It seems obvious the extremist’s grand plan is to weaken society, allowing the growth of autocratic leadership to determine what is best for the rest of us; the problem is that they do not.

The horrifying concern is that the same protagonists pushing these reforms also push defunding the Police. The CAA executive has attended meetings where these issues were raised.

That social experiment has already been tried overseas and failed miserably, which has cost those communities more to rebuild Policing; one problem is the difficulty of very few recruits availing themselves of policing as a career, having seen what happened in the defunding period.

As far as we can tell, the issue of public drunkenness has arisen from one incident where a drunken person self-harmed in a police cell after being arrested for drunkenness.

As sad as that is, that was not the fault of the Police, or the existence of the Offence of Drunk and Disorderly, as we believe no evidence would have excluded the self-harm happening at any other facility, time or place and that drunkenness itself far too often leads to self-harm for which benign arrest is often the only viable solution.

Police see their intervention with somebody drunk in a public place as a Police function, but the sobering up process is a health issue.

Given the demands for service, the idea that drunks can be conveyed home or to some safe place by Police or ambulance is ludicrous.

If changes are to be made, they must be well-considered and practical to avoid numerous unintended consequences.

We strongly support the concept of a ‘Drunk Tank with’ medical oversight. That will improve the safety of the Drunks and the community. Instead of putting drunks in a cell, police can put them in a drunk tank for their four-hour sobering up.

Leave the Legislation alone.