COCAINE CHARGES, CHANGING TREND IN THE USE OF COCAINE IN SYDNEY
In the year since the introduction of the lockout laws in Sydney’s traditional hotspots, there has been a rise in possession offences in neighbouring suburbs, with the latest figures from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research showing an increase of nearly 150 per cent in cocaine offences in places such as Double Bay.
It has been reported that for a sample space of 100, 000 people, the rate of offences in the area has grown from 770 to almost 1870.
These statistics are taken from a study spanning September 2014 – September 2015, and categorically signpost a trend that has emerged since the changing landscape of Sydney’s nightlife.
The lockout laws, introduced in February 2014, require 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks in an effort to reduce the staggering crime rates and injuries at Sydney’s popular nightlife areas.
The lockout area spans Kings Cross, Oxford Street, George Street and the Rocks precinct.
Police attribute this exponential growth as a result of increased law enforcement scrutiny, with additional measures such as dog squads and greater media coverage shining the spotlight on this category of offence.
According to the Rose Bay Police Commander Brad Hodder, this can also be put down to proactive police operations, licensing measures and a prominent presence in the area.
Comparatively, traditional Sydney nightlife areas have experienced a drop off in the number of cocaine- related charges, with places such as Potts Point recording 1164 offences in the same sample period; a staggering 482 less than the previous year, before the introduction of the lockout laws.
The statistics at Double Bay are mirroring those of Kings Cross in its prime.
OFFENCES INVOLVING COCAINE
It is an offence to use cocaine according to s 12 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW), which states ‘a person who administers or attempts to administer a prohibited drug to himself or herself is guilty of an offence’ (s 12(1)). Note, s12(2): ‘nothing in this section renders unlawful the administration or attempted administration by a person to himself or herself of a prohibited drug which has been lawfully prescribed for or supplied to the person’.
For the purpose of this Act, ‘administer’ is taken to mean any means of introducing the prohibited drug into the body.
This matter would be dealt with by the Local Court as a summary offence, and the maximum penalty for this charge is a fine of 20 penalty units, two years’ imprisonment, or both.
To be convicted for this offence, the prosecution bears the onus of proving that the substance is cocaine and you administered or attempted to administer it to yourself.
It is also an offence to administer the prohibited drug to others, pursuant to s 13 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW). This states that ‘a person who administers or attempts to administer a prohibited drug to another person is guilty of an offence’ (s13(1)). This offence has the same penalty as the previous offence discussed, being 20 penalty units and/or two years’ imprisonment. This is also a summary matter, and would be heard before the Local Court. Similar to the charge of self-administration, this prosecution must prove the nature of the substance and that it was or was attempted to be administered to another person.
The possession of cocaine is dealt with under s 10 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985(NSW), which states ‘a person who has a prohibited drug in his or her possession is guilty of an offence’ (s 10(1)). The maximum penalty remains 20 penalty units in conjunction with/or two years’ imprisonment. The elements for the prosecution to prove include the drug being in your possession, and your knowledge of it being in your possession or knowledge of its likely existence and what it was.
This can seep into issues of supply, depending on the quantity found, pursuant to s 25 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW). The nature of a supply charge also depends on the quantity found, as this could render the offence an indictable offence, meaning it is more serious and may be heard by the District Court.
As quantity is an issue, it is important to note that police will weigh the amount found as a part of the investigation, so incorrect labelling on cocaine packaging or paraphernalia is not an issue.
A traffickable quantity of cocaine is 3.0 grams. A small quantity is 1.0 grams. An indictable amount is 5.0 grams, while a commercial quantity is 250.0 grams and a large commercial quantity is 1.0 kilograms.
If the amount is no larger than the indictable amount listed above, the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) or the accused can elect to have the matter heard before the District Court instead of the Local Court. If the amount is classified as ‘small’ by the scale listed above, the DPP can elect to take the matter to the District Court. In both instances, if the matter is not heard in the District Court, it will be heard in the Local Court. See s 25 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW) for more information.
Ongoing supply is addressed by s 25A of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW), which states that ‘a person who, on 3 or more separate occasions during any period of 30 consecutive days, supplies a prohibited drug (other than cannabis) for financial or material reward is guilty of an offence’ (s 25A(1)). It is irrelevant whether the same type of prohibited drug is trafficked (s 25A(2)). The maximum penalty is 3500 penalty units, imprisonment for 20 years, or both.
Other issues concern the manufacture, production, importing or exporting of cocaine, which are dealt with by s 24 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW) and Division 307 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). These are more serious offences.
If you have been charged, or have reason to believe that you may be charged with a cocaine – related offence, contact us for thorough legal representation to protect your reputation and livelihood. Our Sydney criminal lawyers are available 24/7 for urgent legal advice call our office (02) 9261 8640