The Social Affairs Committee has agreed to propose to Home Affairs Minister Tonio Borg that drug sharing should be included under the definition of trafficking in the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance and judges should be given the discretion to decide whether a prison fine was appropriate in cases which came before them.

Labour MP Marie Louise Coleiro said that in her opinion, it was important for judges to have such discretion when they had to decide whether a case involved drug sharing or trafficking.

But the judiciary had to be guided and the committee should further debate whether a Drugs Court specialising on drug problems should be set up. Such specialisation was important because a presiding judge should be well versed not just in the law, but the wider problems of drug abuse, she said.

Nationalist MP Michael Gonzi proposed that as a first step all definitions should be left as they are, defining sharing within the trafficking provisions only for the purpose of the penalty.

Opposition home affairs spokesman Gavin Gulia affirmed that sharing should be within the definition of trafficking but said there should be an ad hoc provision for sharing when it came to the decision on the appropriate penalty.

Discretion, he said, should not be left totally to the judges but there should be objective guidelines on how the punishment was applied.

As for the possibility of creating a Drugs Court, he said that Magistrate Lawrence Quintano was already handling most drug cases. This practice should be further strengthened and given a legal backing.

He said that there were other matters which should be looked into in the future and politicians should not be afraid to speak about them.

One such issue, for example, was what should happen when court proceedings took a long time and drug users who would have rehabilitated themselves still ended in prison.

Dr Borg said the aim of the committee was to see what the main problems which were creating injustice were. The police, for example, had proposed that when an under age person was found, for the first time, in possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use, he should be given a warning and made to follow a programme instead of being taken to court.

But he only wanted to amend the law if there was consensus, because he did not want the drugs problem to be turned into a political ball.

On the Drugs Court, he said this was an issue of an administrative nature and no legislation was required for it to be set up.

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