Minor drug offences almost double in 10 years

Ice overtook cannabis in 2016-17 as the most commonly involved substance in minor drug offences.

Ice overtook cannabis in 2016-17 as the most commonly involved substance in minor drug offences.

The annual number of minor drug offences sentenced in the Victorian Magistrates’ Court grew by 91 per cent in the 10 years to June 2017, with ice becoming the most commonly involved drug, a new report reveals.

The Sentencing Advisory Council report shows there were almost 17,000 minor drug offences sentenced in 2016-17.

Minor drug offences relate to small amounts of an illicit drug used or possessed by a person.

More than one-third of the offences sentenced last year involved methylamphetamine, or ice, but until 2016-17, cannabis was the most common drug involved.

The annual number of charges related to ice grew by more than 2000 per cent in the 10 years.

Sentencing Advisory Council chairman, Emeritus Professor Arie Freiberg, said it was unsurprising the growth in minor drug offences was largely driven by ice.

Meanwhile, misuse of prescription drugs grew by 298 per cent, and cannabis offences increased by 8 per cent.

The report suggested the increase in proven minor drug offences was driven at least in part by more police activity.

It was also revealed the majority of offenders over the 10 years were male, although the proportion of female offenders grew from 14 per cent in 2012-13 to 20 per cent in 2016-17.

Most offenders were aged under 35.

“The report also shows that offenders sentenced for minor drug offences are often being sentenced at the same time for a range of other offences including condition breaches, theft, deception and road safety offences,” Professor Freidberg said.

Data from the Crime Statistics Agency shows the City of Greater Bendigo had the second-highest rate of drug offences per 100,000 people in 2017, behind Central Goldfields Shire.

Over the 10 years, a fine was the most common sentence for minor drug offences, although 25 per cent of offences avoided going to court and were instead given a warning.