The New South Wales coroner is set to recommend that pill testing should be introduced at music festivals, according to a draft report. The leaked, six-page document—as obtained by The Daily Telegraph and seen by VICE—reveals that state coroner Harriet Grahame will likely call on the NSW Government to introduce pill testing services, remove sniffer dogs, and restrict police powers to conduct body searches.
The report also suggests that the state government should “give full and genuine consideration to… decriminalising personal use of drugs, as a mechanism to reduce the harm caused by drug use… [and] expanded regulation of certain currently illicit drugs.”
A spokesperson for the NSW coroners court said the recommendations had not been finalised, according to the ABC, and indicated that the findings of the inquest would be officially handed down on November 8. If true, however, such recommendations would put the coroner at odds with the NSW Government, which has previously ruled out trialling pill testing.
Dissenting voices within the spheres of politics and law enforcement have criticised the suggestions, with senior NSW cops and government ministers gearing up to oppose Ms Grahame’s recommendations. NSW cabinet minister Andrew Constance expressed concerns over the possibility of pill testing, saying that "what we are seeing is young people at these festivals overdosing, dehydrated, and they're losing their lives. So I don't see pill testing as the answer."
The recommendation that sniffer dogs be removed from these kinds of events has also ruffled the feathers of police officers, with one saying that “It basically makes drugs a free for all at these festivals.’’ The report stated, however, that “given the evidence of a link between the use of drug dogs and more harmful means of consumption (including double dosing, pre-loading, swallowing drugs, and insertion in a vaginal or anal cavity) the model of policing music festivals be changed to remove drug detection dogs.”
The draft report comes after the coroner examined the deaths of six young people at various music festivals between December 2017 and January 2019. Those fatalities included Alex Ross-King, 19; Joshua Tam, 22; Callum Brosnan, 21; Diana Nguyen, 21; Joseph Pham, 23; and Nathan Tran, 18.
Jennie Ross-King, the mother of Alex Ross-King, has condemned the leaking of the draft recommendations, calling the move disrespectful and negligent toward the due process of the coronial inquest, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
"It's completely undermined the process and it’s disappointing that the people who leaked this documentation have obliterated the whole process," Ms Ross-King said. She also declared, however, that she supported all of the coroner’s recommendations.
"I thought they were great. They're very comprehensive and common sense. From everything we heard, it's based on the facts, the evidence, the information that was brought to the coroner," she said. "I think we have been listened to with our concerns."