[WATCH] Former ECHR judge Giovanni Bonello to chair drug offenders rehabilitation board

Parliament in unanimous support of the Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) legislation

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and former ECHR judge Giovanni Bonello (Photo: Ray Attard)
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and former ECHR judge Giovanni Bonello (Photo: Ray Attard)
Drug abuse victims 'not society's enemies' • Video by Ray Attard

Former judge at the European Court of Human Rights Giovanni Bonello will be chairing the Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board, set up through the Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) legisltation that enjoys parliament’s unanimous support.

The law will come into force on 15 April and provides for the appointment of a Drugs Commissioner who will receive individuals caught with 2grams or less and individuals caught with 3.5grams of cannabis or less.

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici has appointed Vicki Scicluna as Drugs Commissioner.

In the case of offenders appearing before the Commissioner for the second time in two years, these will be referred to the board that includes Romina Baldwin, nominated by the Family Ministry, Mariella Camilleri who was nominated by the Home Affairs Ministry and Leonard Manicolo who was appointed by the Health Ministry. Court official Dolores Sultana will be board secretary.

Psychotherapist Mariella Dimech was tasked with carrying follow-ups of the persons appearing before the board.

With the amendments approved by parliament, individuals caught with 2grams or more up to around 250-300grams will appear before a magistrate rather than undergo trial by jury.

The magistrate could opt to refer the drug users to the rehabilitation board. The magistrate can also choose to order community service as opposed to a prison sentence. Heritage Malta and the Restoration Directorate have already agreed to offer places if the magistrate orders community service.

 “This is a law that helps genuine victims of drug to help them overcome their addiction,” Justice Minister Owen Bonnici told journalists at a press conference.

Flanked by Giovanni Bonello, Bonnici said the government was on the other hand harshening laws against drug traffickers. Parliament gave the Justice Minister power to set up an Asset Management Bureau to confiscate assets seized from criminals and drug barons.

Describing the law as an “experiment”, Bonello said the traditional methods of repression were not giving results.

“We fought drugs by law and prosecution, sentencing people to prison. The general impression today is that the planned results were not achieved. It was time to think outside the box. This law is an experiment, but I don’t think the situation can get worse,” he said.

Bonello said victims of drug abuse were more of a social problem than criminal while condemnation will be maintained against those cases with criminal elements.

“The victims are people requiring help, not enemies of society,” he said.

The justice minister added that “time will prove us right” over the implementation of the law.

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