Trial to sober up drunks panned as ‘O’Farell’s fight club’
The NSW Government’s plan to trial three “sobering-up centres” in Sydney and Wollongong has been attacked as a “stunt” that could potentially put people at risk of further harm while doing nothing to address the root issues of binge drinking and alcohol-related violence.
The Police Association of NSW has also aired its opposition to the initiative, saying that it was not a core responsibility of the police to look after drunks.
Announcing the trial yesterday, Police Minister Mike Gallacher and Community Services Minister Pru Goward said three centres will be opened up – on George Street in Sydney’s CBD, in Coogee in the city’s east and one in Wollongong – for one year to fulfil a promise made before the last election.
“It’s about saying to people when you speak to a police officer because of your drunk and disorderly behaviour, the words you utter to that police officer can determine where you spend the night,” Gallacher told reporters.
“In your own bed, or one supplied by me, and the one supplied by us isn’t going to be very comfortable and isn’t going to smell very good.”
Drunken revellers engaging in anti-social behaviour in Kings Cross, The Rocks and George Street will be transported to holding cells near the George Street cinema complex while the other two centres will only be voluntary. The CBD centre will be staffed by three police and health professionals.
According to the Gallacher, people will only be placed in the cells if they are conscious, not injured and not displaying violent behaviour, however Sydney Independent MP Alex Greenwich told SX the plan offered no real solutions at all.
“This is a stunt,” he said. “The government should do more work to enforce RSA to stop people getting drunk in the first place and provide better transport at night so people can actually get home.
“It’s a furphy to suggest this will be a deterrent, when people are seriously drunk it inhibits their ability to understand consequences and make proper decisions.”
Police Association of NSW president, Scott Weber, also questioned whether police as well those they were placing in sobering-up centres had proper legal protection and that their safety would be assured.
“The real solution to alcohol-related violence is reducing trading hours, restricting high alcohol-content drinks and introducing lock-outs,” Weber said. “Those are the measures proven to work.”
Opposition Police spokesperson, Nathan Rees, meanwhile dubbed the trial as “O’Farrell’s fight club” and said the idea was dangerous and shouldn’t proceed.
“The idea that you pour half a dozen or more drunk young people into a cell for a night is a recipe for disaster,” he said.
“This will end up as Barry O'Farrell's fight club.”
There are also fears the new initiatives will unfairly target young people, indigenous people and those from non-Anglo backgrounds, the homeless and those with mental illnesses.
Randwick Mayor Tony Bowen however said he welcomed the trial.
“I’ll be watching the trial with interest and hope it helps improve safety for our community,” he said.
“I’m also particularly interested to see how effectively the Coogee Centre operates as a non-mandatory centre as opposed to the mandatory centre in the Sydney CBD.”
- Tags: Alcohol, Alex Greenwich, Anti-Social Behaviour, Coogee, Crime, George Street, Kings Cross, Labor, Law, Liberal Party, Mike Gallacher, Nathan Rees, NSW, Police Association of NSW, Politics, Pru Goward, Randwick Council, Scott Weber, Sobering-Up Centre, SX, Sydney, The Rocks, Tony Bowen, Wollongong