Charity payments for drug cases

By Anna Sandiford 02/03/2010

The Police and court system in Ireland have decided that rather than clog up the court system with minor drug offenders, they’re going to get them pay money into the court box, which, in turn, gets distributed to charities: Festival drug cases will boost charities’ coffers. I’ve seen court boxes in English courts before but they’re usually decorative affairs rather than ever receiving any serious cash; the idea for filling the Irish court boxes came as the result of last year’s Oxegen festival.
Anyone who has ever been to a music festival will know that drugs are easy to acquire and the Police have long been aware of this. Glastonbury festival for example has an on-site drug testing laboratory — there used to be a bit of an argument amongst the scientists about whose turn it was to ’work’ at Glastonbury for the weekend (incidentally, this year’s festival at the end of June has already sold out of tickets). The Irish Garda (Police) now also agrees that on-site drug testing is a good way to go.
A presumptive testing device is used at Oxegen that detects the possible presence of cannabis, Ecstasy, cocaine, amphetamines and BZP. Presumptive drug testing kits have been used in the field for many years. They’re also used at forensic science laboratories to establish what drug or drugs may be present in a sample in order to determine the most appropriate analytical scheme. Although a presumptive test would not be sufficient for prosecution of a serious crime, the modern tests are sufficiently good that they are accepted by the courts for lesser offences such as possession of enough cannabis for one joint or, as at the Oxegen festival, up to 80 Euro (about NZ$155) of cocaine.
The arrested persons were still required to attend court but instead of all those drug samples being sent off to a forensic science laboratory for confirmatory tests to be conducted, the defendants were dealt with on the day and most of them were required to make a charity contribution of 1,000 Euro (approx. NZ$1,950). With 100,000 Euro being pledged, that’s a lot of charity money for a couple of days’ work. Plus, as Garda Inspector Patsy Glennon explained, this system ’cuts down on the amount of painstaking examination and certification normally required and so saves time, money and effort’. Which sounds jolly good all round.