A police union boss says he is "dismayed" by the ACT government's continued drug decriminalisation push after a teenager crashed a stolen Mercedes-Benz into a Canberra cop car while "high" on illicit substances.
Australian Federal Police Association president Alex Caruana also claimed the government had not done enough in the health and rehabilitation sectors to support decriminalising illicit drugs, as he backed a senior barrister's call for a therapeutic court program to be better funded and resourced.
Mr Caruana's comments on Tuesday followed the sentencing of a methamphetamine-addled offender who was "driving stupidly and dangerously", as Justice Michael Elkaim put it, when he smashed the stolen vehicle into a police car in Turner.
As he handed the teenager, who cannot legally be identified, an intensive correction order in the ACT Supreme Court, Justice Elkaim said last October's incident was "an unfortunate example of the type of event that police have to deal with all too regularly".
While the offender's lawyer told the court a treatment order designed to address substance abuse issues would have been ideal, one was not an option because the drug and alcohol sentencing list program, where these are imposed, has been full since February.
The lack of available places previously prompted respected barrister John Purnell SC to write to ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury, labelling the situation "a tragedy" and calling for more funding to "urgently remedy this limitation in sentencing options".
Mr Caruana backed this call on Tuesday, saying something was "very wrong" as he accused the government of being "more interested in being seen as progressive instead of actually trying to ... help people".
"The ACT Supreme Court's drug and alcohol sentencing list will play a crucial part in the future of diverting people away from the justice system," Mr Caruana said.
"Yet the ACT government doesn't want to put money into support services to back up [its] plan to decriminalise drugs," he added, referring to proposed reforms that would decriminalise the possession of small amounts of drugs like "ice", heroin and cocaine.
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In response to Mr Caruana's comments, Mr Rattenbury said work to decriminalise drugs in the ACT was important because "the law and order approach is not delivering the best outcomes for the community".
"The ACT's drug and alcohol court is an effective and evidence-based therapeutic approach to reduce harm for individuals and more effectively protect our community," Mr Rattenbury told The Canberra Times.
"Preliminary data from analysis of the drug and alcohol court indicate that it is highly effective in reducing reoffending and helping offenders get their lives on track.
"The ACT government strongly agrees with the need to provide appropriate support and referral services, and acknowledges the need for these programs to be in place for the new laws to come into effect."
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