NEW laws could force drug addicts into treatment against their will, a local working group says.

The Severe Substances Dependent Treatment Bill will go before State
Parliament this year, replacing “out-of-date” legislation from 1968.

But a St Kilda-based human rights working group said the Bill breached the State Government’s own Charter of Human Rights.

Spokeswoman and St Kilda Legal Service community lawyer Emma Asscher
said anyone who was capable of choosing to refuse treatment could still
be detained and treated compulsorily.

“There is no strong evidence to show long-term effectiveness of coercive treatment,” Ms Asscher said.

“There is need for more funding of voluntary withdrawal facilities
and funding of these services should be the government’s priority.”

Ms Asscher said the group supported the goals of the proposed
legislation but added it “unjustifiably reduced human rights” and there
had been a lack of consultation on the proposal.

But State Government spokesman Chris Owner said the aim of the Bill
was to save the lives of a small number of people “who have reached the
point of severe harm due to their long-term drug addiction and are
unable to make a decision about their lives”.

“It will provide life-saving care when all other forms of voluntary
treatment and action have failed. It is a treatment of last resort,” Mr
Owner said.

“We understand Victorians are concerned about the welfare of those
suffering as a result of long-term drug use. That is why we have
introduced (the Bill).”

Consultation on the legislation began in 2005 and the 1968 Bill did not comply with the Charter of Human Rights, he said.

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