80 Percent Of Defqon Festival Searches Found No Drugs
Nearly 200 police worked at the Defqon music festival in September, an arrangement the Greens have called a "harmful waste of resources".
Figures obtained by NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge found a total of 194 police officers worked a combined total of 2100 hours at the western Sydney music festival, held on September 15.
Two people died after taking drugs at the event, and a dozen more were hospitalised. It prompted the NSW government to call a review into music festivals, which last week recommended new criminal charges be introduced to further penalise the supply of drugs.
"We are disappointed at the number of reported drug related incidents, we have a zero-tolerance policy in relation to drug use at the festival," Defqon said in a statement after the festival.
"Festival organisers are working closely and cooperating with the authorities regarding the fatalities and the number of medical presentations made during the evening, a full investigation is currently underway."
Shoebridge criticised the use of police resources at the event.
In September, police announced they had conducted 355 drug searches at the event, with 69 found in possession of drugs and 10 supply charges laid.
"Despite this massive investment of resources two young people tragically lost their lives and a minimal amount of drugs were seized, most of it for personal use," he said.
Shoebridge told ten daily that these figures meant 80 percent of searches resulted in no drugs being found, and just two percent of searches led to charges of drug supply -- the offence the state government aims to further criminalise.
“Police wasted thousands of hours of police work and hundreds of thousands of dollars on aggressive zero tolerance policing that just puts young people in even greater danger," Shoebridge told ten daily.
“We know that a heavy police presence and drug dogs don't discourage drug use at festivals and can put revellers at greater risk of harm. The public paid for a staggering 2100.5 hours of policing by 194 police at Defqon1, that’s enough police time to keep a country station open for a year."
He claimed the government was "wasting resources on heavy handed police tactics that don’t work", and said the government should investigate harm minimisation strategies like pill testing -- an idea rubbished by premier Gladys Berejiklian before the festival review.
"Heavy-handed policing at Defqon1 failed as it always has," Shoebridge said.
"It encourages people to use drugs beforehand or purchase them inside the gates. It also stops people from reporting sexual assault and harassment to police and security. Worse still it can lead to people panicking and consuming large quantities of drugs at once."
One of the people who died at a previous Defqon event, in 2013, was said to have swallowed several pills at once after fearing he would be caught by police.
"We know that amnesty bins, pill testing and peer to peer education will save lives at music festivals," Shoebridge said.
Former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer told ten daily the NSW review into festival safety was a missed opportunity to explore new methods of harm minimisation.
"I'm very disappointed that intelligent people came up with solutions that missed out on these measures," he said.
"That to me is a big flaw in what could have been good."
Pill testing advocate Dr David Caldicott told ten daily he and others had been asked to present to the premier's panel, but were not permitted to talk about pill testing.
"Our group was asked to make a representation. We were told you can talk about anything but you're not allowed to talk about pill testing," he said.