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Staggering: Queensland now the only state with public drunkenness law

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Three decades after a royal commission recommended it be abolished, public drunkenness will remain a crime in Queensland for the foreseeable future.

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Queensland is the only jurisdiction that has not moved to change the law, after Victoria passed a bill in February following the inquest into the death of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day.

While there are no plans to scrap the offence, a representative for Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan said there were alternatives to detaining intoxicated people in custody.

“The approach police take is about prioritising the safety of the intoxicated person and others who may be around them, rather than imposing penalties,” the representative said.

“The (Police Powers and Responsibilities Act) means a police officer can deliver an intoxicated person to their own home, a hospital or diversionary centre that provides care for intoxicated people.”

Abolishing the offence was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991 as well as the inquest into the death of Day.

Day was arrested in late 2017 for being drunk on a train and placed in a Castlemaine police cell to “sober up” but hit her head and sustained a brain haemorrhage. She died 17 days later in hospital.

Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said she was “looking with interest at the reforms passed in Victoria which decriminalised public drunkenness and instead treated the conduct as a health issue”.

Almost 500 Indigenous people have died in custody in the 30 years since the Deaths In Custody report, including five across the country since the start of March this year.

The final report of the four-year royal commission was tabled in federal parliament on April 15, 1991.

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