Police union boss Ian Leavers.
Police union boss Ian Leavers.

Union boss critical of pill testing despite police backing

QUEENSLAND'S powerful police union boss has rubbished pill testing, saying it's "crazy stuff" that will only cost more young people their lives.

Police Union president Ian Leavers has hit out at Australian politicians for sending "mixed messages" to teenagers about drug use and said only more police officers and tougher laws will stamp out Australia's drug culture at festivals.

"What people and many parents forget is that these drugs are not just one person taking one pill at a festival, the illegal drug trade is built on human misery. Entire illegal operations often involve serious crimes like armed robbery, grievous bodily harms and murder," he said.

His comments are at odds with several police organisations around the world who recommend testing and refute his claims. 

Josh Tam died at the Lost Paradise music festival. Picture: Facebook
Josh Tam died at the Lost Paradise music festival. Picture: Facebook

"As the father of a teenager who is about to be going go these festivals and as a currently serving police officer, I can say that pill testing and any other condoning of this type of illegal drug-taking will only lead to more deaths.

"Pill testing of illegal drugs at music events and festivals is just crazy stuff. The only people who'd win will be drug traffickers."

Pill testing has become a front and centre issue for governments again after the death of Brisbane 22-year-old Joshua Tam at the Lost Paradise Music Festival in NSW on December 29.

Police suspect he consumed a party drug.

Five people have fatally overdosed at festivals in NSW and Victoria in recent months.

The Palaszczuk Government last week confirmed that it was looking at pill testing after the Australia-first trial at the Groovin the Moo music festival in Canberra last year.

Police union president Ian Leavers. Picture: AAP/Image Sarah Marshall
Police union president Ian Leavers. Picture: AAP/Image Sarah Marshall

But after a year that saw restrictions tighten on the purchasing of codeine in Australia, Mr Leavers believes pill testing would be a step backwards that "doesn't make sense".

"What we actually need as the solution for this is that more additional funding of police resources need to be allocated by government to arrest drug use," he said.

"We need an immediate increase in police numbers by at least 100 extra police for each police region and command, to tackle drug trafficking, as well as ensuring that sentencing starts meeting community expectations."

Concerns have also been raised by Mr Leavers about who accepts legal responsibility when someone overdoses at a festival after their pill has been tested.

"The liability issues for the state are huge too not to mention the legal minefield this would present," he said.

"What if a sanctioned pill testing site tests a pill, says it's OK and someone still dies? Those pill testers will then be charged too."

On Saturday, the man behind the push for pill testing admitted it would not stop young people dying at festivals.

Harm Reduction Australia co-founder Gino Vumbaca, who launched the Canberra trial, said pill testing would not stop all drug users from dying at festivals but said it was "better than doing nothing".

Under his plan, revellers would be required to sign a death waiver which includes a warning that tests cannot accurately determine purity levels or give any indication of safety.



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