The State Coroner Harriet Grahame is set to push a dramatic reduction of police drug operations and the inclusion of pill testing at music events and festivals.

The Daily Telegraph recently reported that the coroner has also asked for the elimination of police body searches and incidents using sniffer dogs, all in a draft report that came after an inquest looking into six drug-related deaths at a music festival.

The controversial suggestions position the Coroner on a dramatic course with the state government, which previously scratched out pill testing and axed claims that festivals are over-policed.

Government ministers and senior NSW cops are gearing up to oppose Ms Grahame’s suggestions and were apparently surprised at how much police presence and actions would be minimised at festivals in the future.

One source noted that they may as well legalise drugs at events and festivals if the recommendations are to go through.

Another source noted that the government’s stance on pill testing was already established and the coroner’s report won’t have an effect on anything.

There are more than 40 recommendations in the draft report which was put forward last week. This was presented to the NSW Department of Health and was presented to the NSW Police Department. This comes after Ms Grahame observed the fatalities of six individuals at music festivals during the period of December 2017 to January 2019.

A spokesperson for the NSW coroner’s office noted that the findings will be given on 8 November 2019, but have not yet been finalised.

During the hearing, Ms Grahame attended two separate festivals and witnessed police activity first-hand and various other procedures.

She said it had made her feel nervous and there were plenty of lines of police dogs and police officers, giving the vibe an “intense” feeling.

During this time, the court also heard from specialists, medical staff and police about the fatalities of several others at various festivals.

Psychologist Dr Stephen Bright said the significant police presence should be considered carefully, as it may have had a big impact on the deaths. A number of experts said pill testing would positively impact reducing the chances of fatalities.

However, a report put forward to the inquest said there was no clear evidence that pill testing reduced the number of drugs consumed during these incidents.

Author of the report, Dr Russ Scott, said the proposed rollout of formalised testing may have the unintended effect of contributing to the ‘normalisation’ of using ‘party drugs’ in Australia.

Tony Wood – whose 15-year-old daughter, Anna, was killed after having a reaction to an ecstasy tablet in 1995 – said any form of minimising police presence and testing will send the wrong type of message to young people. His recommendation to the coroner was to listen to what the police and other groups have to say about pill testing reductions.

Reference: 15 October 2019

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