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Victoria has decriminalised public drunkenness

Victoria has decriminalised public drunkenness

Victoria decriminalised public drunkenness

Public drunkenness has been decriminalised in Victoria after intoxication laws in the state were found to have a disproportionate impact on First Nations people.

The change comes into effect today, on the same day as Victoria’s Melbourne Cup public holiday.

It means authorities will approach public drunkenness with a health-led response, unlike the previous system which treated it as a criminal offence.

The context

The Victorian Government pledged to decriminalise public drunkenness in 2019, after the death of a First Nations woman in custody.

Police arrested Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day for drunkenness while on a train in 2017. She wasn’t provided adequate care while in police custody.

The State Government announced it was moving forward with plans to decriminalise public intoxication in January this year.

Police powers for public drunkenness

Police won’t have alternative or additional arrest powers for intoxicated people.

However, they’ll still be able to arrest people for being violent or disturbing the peace.

Intoxicated people who need help will now access health support. Police will not take them into custody.

A health-led response

A health-based approach will help people access safe places to sober up. This will include organising safe transport to get people home, or to a staffed sobering centre.

A 24/7 outreach service connecting people to safe places will be available across Melbourne.

Two sobering centres will open in Melbourne, while eight centres dedicated to supporting First Nations people will open in regional Victoria.

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