30 cases referred to rehabilitation board instead of the Court on simple drug possession

Amendments to the drug law introduced in April have permitted 40 cases of simple possession of drugs to be referred to the rehabilitation board aimed at assisting addicts to renounce the addiction. The new model adopted in Malta has been recognized as a good example in a renowned article of the European Monitoring Centre on drug addiction.

With the new law on drugs, cases of persons caught with simple possession of drugs for personal use are not being referred to Court, but are being heard by the Justice Commissioner in the local tribunal in Qormi.  The law states that first time offenders with less than two grams of drugs, or two ecstasy pills, and up to three grams of cannabis will be fined.

Liz Vassallo from the Justice Ministry said that the Police have already referred 25 cases to the tribunal that will be heard in September.  If a person is again caught with drugs, he will appear before the rehabilitation board.

The court has already received 30 requests from persons who were caught with drugs on more than one occasion, to be referred to the board instead of facing criminal procedures.  The aim is that genuine victims will escape prison terms but are assisted to stop addiction.

The rehabilitation board will ensure that the drug victims will undergo a rehabilitation program with one of the agencies, such as Sedqa, Caritas or Oasi.  The board’s chairman, Judge Giovanni Bonello said that the court has already referred six cases to the board.

Dr Bonello said that the success rate in such cases is not very strong when the persons involved have a serious drug problem, a number of them will recover from the addiction, while others will return to the addiction.

The new legal model in this sector is based on that being implemented in Portugal.  This was recognised by a renowned article of the European Monitoring Centre on drug use and addiction, which said that Malta together with Sweden are among the first countries in Europe that the sentence for drug use is treatment and not prison.


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