New Zealand Law Society - New powers to subject offenders and bailees to alcohol and drug testing

New powers to subject offenders and bailees to alcohol and drug testing

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The Drug and Alcohol Testing of Community-based Offenders, Bailees and Other Persons Legislation Bill was passed by Parliament on 8 November 2016. It has been divided into the following pieces of legislation and the original bill no longer exists:

  • Bail (Drug and Alcohol Testing) Amendment Act 2016;
  • Parole (Drug and Alcohol Testing) Amendment Act 2016;
  • Sentencing (Drug and Alcohol Testing) Amendment Act 2016;
  • Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) (Drug and Alcohol Testing) Amendment Act 2016;
  • Returning Offenders (Management and Information) (Drug and Alcohol Testing) Amendment Act 2016.

The Amendment Acts come into force on 16 May 2017. From that date, the Acts allow Corrections and police to subject to testing or monitoring any person on bail, on parole or subject to a non-custodial sentence or order with an abstinence condition.

A judge may impose an abstinence condition as part of a person’s sentence or bail conditions, but the judge does not decide what testing the offender should be subject to – Corrections and police staff will decide that based on offender risk levels. The same applies to the Parole Board setting parole conditions.

Corrections and police staff will continue to use their professional decision-making when deciding the appropriate level of monitoring for offenders and bailees on abstinence conditions.

Therefore, as from February, when Corrections staff are completing Provision of Advice to Courts (PAC) and Parole Assessment Reports they will alert offenders that, if they have an existing abstinence condition, then they may be subject to testing from 16 May 2017.

Two-year implementation trial in Northern Region

Corrections and police will trial practice changes resulting from the new legislation using a phased approach over two years from 16 May. The trial will be conducted in the Corrections Northern Region (approximately everywhere north of the Bombay Hills). The Northern Region was selected for the trial because it contains a diverse mix of people on abstinence conditions, including those in urban and rural areas.

Implementation will be carried out in the following stages:

  1. A ten-week initial trial at the Manurewa and Otara Community Corrections sites.
  2. A broader trial in the rest of the Northern Region for the remainder of the two-year trial period.
  3. An evaluation.
  4. National implementation.

The trial will allow us to identify the right mix of testing technology and frequency of testing to inform a national rollout. The trial will include:

  1. Alcohol Detection Anklets (ADA). People subject to ADA will wear an anklet that detects alcohol in their sweat and provides evidence they have consumed alcohol. These will be reserved for our highest risk offenders and electronically monitored bailees. We will be trialling about 50 anklets.
  2. Random alcohol, drug and psychoactive substance testing of selected persons via urine testing.
  3. Testing, via urine testing, if the probation officer or police think a person may have been drinking alcohol, taking drugs or consuming psychoactive substances.
  4. Breath alcohol testing will also be used by police.

A positive test result may be used to support only a breach of conditions charge. The test can not be evidence to support a drug charge.

However, a person receiving a test result can use the result for other purposes – for example, to show an employer that they are drug free.

While the trial is testing specific technology and testing methods in the Northern Region only, police will be breath alcohol testing offenders and bailees across the country.

Testing and monitoring services will be provided through external suppliers. A new Corrections-centralised alcohol and drug testing coordination team will be established and will be the central point of contact between these providers and frontline probation officers and police officers.

Testing of persons with abstinence conditions will assist staff in targeting interventions and holding them to account.

The drug and alcohol testing of offe­nders is complemented by Breaking the Cycle: Corrections Drug and Alcohol Strategy through to 2020 which sets out the ways Corrections will support people with drug and alcohol issues. The strategy is available to download from the Corrections website.

Darius Fagan is the Chief Probation Office, Department of Corrections. For further information email:

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