Byron Shire has one of the highest rates of roadside drug-testing-related convictions in the state, new figures show.
Figures from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research show that there were nearly 100 criminal convictions in the Byron Shire last year as a result of the controversial roadside saliva tests (RDT tests).
That translates to a rate of 288 convictions per 100,000 people, which is the standard statistical measure used to compare different regions.
This rate is more than three-and-a-half times higher than the NSW average and is significantly higher than any local-government area in the Sydney metropolitan area.
The Richmond-Tweed region as a whole has the fourth-highest rate of RDT-related convictions according to the figures, with 151.3 per 100,000 people.
Local Greens MP Tamara Smith said the figures highlighted some of the inherent flaws in the roadside drug-testing regime.
‘One of the biggest issues here is the inconsistency of the laws when compared with tests for drink driving,’ Ms Smith said.
‘For drink driving, you have a threshold of 0.05, which basically means you can have one or two drinks over the course of an evening and still be okay to drive’.
‘But with cannabis, there’s no threshold. So you have a situation where someone has had a joint a day or two before and is not impaired in any way but they will still be picked up by the saliva test and face a criminal conviction.
‘It’s completely unfair and is really just quite a ridiculous system.’
A further flaw in the system was also revealed during a recent Lismore court case, during which the police’s drug-testing expert stated that cannabis consumed via capsule could not be picked up by the saliva test.
The magistrate in the case David Heilpern said the evidence had ‘obvious implications for the efficacy of the state’s drug driving regime’.
‘Whatever the raison d’être of this legislation, the only available conclusion from the government’s own expert is that criminal liability depends on the mode of intake,’ Mr Heilpern said.
‘It is inconceivable that parliament intended that those who smoked or ate a cookie could be caught, and those who ‘shelved’ or swallowed a capsule could not.’
The Greens have called for major changes to be made to the roadside drug-testing regime to ensure that only those actually affected by drugs are prosecuted.
But the state government has steadfastly defended the system, saying it has made the roads safer by reducing the number of people driving under the influence of drugs.