Qld govt urged to decriminalise public drunkenness and begging

8th Sep 2022

Public drunkenness and begging must both be treated as health and social issues, not criminal offences, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“Evidence shows that the criminalisation of offences like public intoxication and begging discriminates against vulnerable people, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as well as people experiencing homelessness and mental health issues,” said Mr Greg Barns SC, barrister and spokesperson for the ALA.

“We need a holistic, culturally-informed health-based response to address these behaviours as health and social concerns, not as criminal offences.”

The ALA has made a submission to the inquiry into decriminalising public intoxication and begging offences, and health and social welfare-based responses being conducted by the Queensland Community Support and Services Committee.

“We urge the Queensland government to repeal the offences of public intoxication and begging to achieve decriminalisation, and to comply more fully with rights protected under the state’s Human Rights Act,” said Mr Barns SC.

“Taking a criminal justice approach to incidents of public drunkenness and to begging has proved to be unsafe. This punitive approach is ineffective in reducing recurrence, it has led to avoidable deaths and has unnecessarily entangled people in the legal system.

“Legislative reform that decriminalises offences such as public intoxication, begging and urinating in public is essential but it is not enough.

“We need an effective health-based response to these issues that makes places of safety available, as an alternative to police cells, and provides an appropriate health, social and cultural framework to address public intoxication and begging."

Read the ALA’s full submission here.  




Tags: Human rights Queensland Criminal justice