In this report, the contemporary legal issue of illicit drugs and young offenders has been discussed and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the criminal justice system when dealing with this issue has been conducted. The issue of illicit drugs and why the consumption of these drugs is dangerous to Australian youth is explored and the Australian law that deals with psychoactive drugs and young offenders is also stated. The evaluation of the effectiveness of the criminal justice system when dealing with young offenders will be conducted by discussing by discussing it in regards to accessibility, equality, protection of rights, resource efficiency and enforceability. It is concluded that the criminal justice system is not effectively dealing with young offenders in relation to illicit drug crimes.
3.0 Australian Youth and Illicit Drugs
Drugs are substances that change a person’s physical or mental state. This definition can be split into substances that are legally prescribed by medical professionals and substances that are illegally used to affect the mind (referred to as illicit or recreational drugs) (National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre Australia, 2011). The prohibition of psychoactive drugs has caused the production and consumption of such drugs to be driven underground and has fostered the development of a criminal industry that is corrupting civil society and governments. This multi-million dollar industry is not regulated by the government, allowing for the drugs to be produced at any quality or quantity and allowing young Australians to have easy access to illicit drugs. This is an issue because young people who are caught with these drugs can be charged criminal and this ultimately leads to their futures become much more difficult due to the legal implications of the matter (Australia21, July 2012). Abuse of such substances also has a very negative effect to a person’s health, especially to young people as they are in a crucial development phase (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2012). There is also the theory that low class drugs, such as cannabis, can be ‘gateway drugs’ and can lead to drug abuse of more serious drugs later in life (Szalavitz, 2010). In 2011, a survey was conducted in 363 secondary schools in Australia by the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) concerning alcohol and drug use. The results reported that 26.8% of students aged 16-17 years old had used illicit substances in their lifetime, with 13.2% of students using such drugs the past month of the survey. This was a significant decrease from 2005, where 32.6% of students the same age had used illicit drugs in their lifetime. The survey also concluded that a higher percentage of young males had used illicit drugs in their lifetime as of 2011 (29.6% of males, 24.2% of females) (White & Bariola, December 2012). It is also important to highlight the higher percentage of illicit drug users among the Indigenous population (28.2% in 2006) in comparison to the general Australia population (13.4% in 2006) (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006), as described in Figure 3.1.
4.0 Illicit Drugs and the Australian Criminal Justice System The possession, use, production and trafficking of illicit drugs is made illegal within New South Wales through the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW), which outlines numerous offences related to illicit drugs. Additional drug offences are also included in the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW). Australia is also a signatory of a number of international treaties and conventions concerning drugs which are enacted through various legislations, such as the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW). The main international treaties regarding drugs that Australia has signed are: the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971 and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances...