Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies

Article: Swensen

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Greg Swensen

The University of Western Australia 

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The Management of Public Drunkenness in Western Australia: Policing the Unpoliceable?

This paper examines the role of the criminal justice system in managing public order consequences from the problematic use of alcohol in Western Australia (WA) from its beginnings as a British colony in the 1830s up to the recent present.  

For much of this period until 1990, the dominant approach relied on a broad police power to arrest and charge anyone perceived to be intoxicated in a public place, resulting in large numbers of individuals appearing in Magistrate Courts, who, if reoffenders, were exposed to extended terms of imprisonment calculated not to rehabilitate but to punish and isolate.

Decriminalisation of public intoxication occurred in 1990, as the result of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC), which established a framework outside the criminal justice system for police to formally divert intoxicated people to sobering up centres (SUCs) instead of detaining them overnight in lock ups.

Keywords: Western Australia, policing, public order, public drunkenness, intoxication, law and order, move on notices, protective custody, Indigenous Australians, problematic use of alcohol

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Updated 15 Dec 2017


Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies

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