50 people earn a second chance in their life following the  introduction of the 2015 Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) Act 

Four years following the coming into force of the Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) Act, Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici announced that through the mechanisms introduced by this landmark legislation, a total of 50 people who were charged with drug-related offences have been given a second chance in their life after being deemed by the Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board (DORB) to have successfully overcome drug addiction. 

“The Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) Act was a defining moment in the way the State deals with victims of drug abuse. Four years down the line, results are showing that genuine victims of drug abuse should be seen as people needing assistance and not criminals,” stated Minister Bonnici. In fact, the new drug laws provide various means of assistance to people charged with drug offences and strong incentives to kick the habit.
The new law provided various reforms with the aim of addressing victims of drug abuse as people who principally need assistance to overcome the habit. 

Firstly, the new law provided that persons found in possession of a small number of drugs for personal use be tried in front of a Commissioner of Justice, rather than the Court of Magistrates. If found guilty, a fine of EUR50 to EUR100 is imposed for possession of cannabis, and a fine of EUR75 to EUR125 for possession of other drugs. This decriminalisation exercise had the effect of dealing with cases of simple possession from a social perspective and the results have been very positive. 

Secondly, the law provided that in the case simple possession of drugs other than cannabis, if a person is found guilty of this decriminalised offence twice in the period of two years, that person – rather than be considered a recidivist in terms of the Criminal Code – is referred to the DORB for treatment in order to overcome drug abuse.  

It is positive to note that out of a total of 2,710 people who were charged with simple possession, only 88 fell in the last category of being mandatorily referred for treatment for being found guilty twice in the period of two years. This effectively suggests that the arraignment in front of the Commissioner of Justice is leaving the desired effect.

Thirdly, the law provided that in the cases of aggravated possession and certain cases of drug trafficking, the Court of Magistrates may, upon an application of the accused, refer the accused to the DORB for treatment. 46 persons were referred for treatment to the DORB by the Court of Magistrates.  

Results show that from a total of 134 cases referred for treatment either from the Commissioner for Justice (88) or from the Court of Magistrates (46) in the last four years, a total of 50 persons were deemed by the DORB to have come out of the habit. Out of the total of 50 persons, 30 persons were referred from the Commissioner of Justice and 20 persons were referred by the Court of Magistrates.

Fourthly, the law provided that in the cases of aggravated possession and certain cases of drug trafficking, which attract a punishment of mandatory imprisonment, the Court of Magistrates is empowered to give an alternative punishment other than imprisonment upon positive advice of the DORB.  Out of the 20 persons who were referred by the Court of Magistrates and have successfully kicked the habit, 3 people have already been granted a judgment of non-imprisonment and the rest (17) are awaiting sentencing.

Minister Bonnici stated that initial results show that the Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) Act is managing to reform lives and provide a second chance to those who earn it.