The Malta Independent 15 April 2021, Thursday

Malta has EU’s second-highest prison expenditure on drug offences

Malta Independent Monday, 28 April 2014, 08:30 Last update: about 8 years ago

The Prime Minister’s latest and albeit sketchy statements on the decriminalisation of drugs could make a great deal of economic sense, according to recent statistics produced by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

According to the EMCDDA, Malta is the European Union’s second highest spender in terms of accommodating drug law offenders in prison. The EMCDDA, in fact, estimates that in 2010 Malta spent as much as 0.084 per cent of its gross domestic product – €5,208,000 – on this category of prisoner. Malta was only outspent by Italy, which dedicated 0.087 per cent of its GDP to drug offenders.

While, according to the EMCDDA, differences in such expenditure from country to country reflect national characteristics such as different crime rates, different legal frameworks and judicial systems, different sentencing practices and also different proportions of pre-trial prisoners in the total population, Malta is nevertheless spending a disproportionate amount on drug offence prisoners, particularly on first-time offenders – an area that the government appears to be intending to address.

Last week, in the wake of the approval of the Civil Unions Bill, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had said that the next great challenge that the government will be tackling will be the decriminalisation of drug possession in certain circumstances.

Noting that, at present, the simple possession of drugs could lead to imprisonment, Dr Muscat said that Malta had “a system that is not working in my opinion, it is failing our young and not providing them with the desired results.”

In fact, in 2010, the proposal published this week points out, 85 per cent of all arrests made for simple possession were of people aged between 15 and 34, and 17 per cent of those were offenders between 30 and 34 years of age.

Dr Muscat noted that certain elements have been already put up for consultation, and that his Cabinet will now be discussing the reform of Maltese drug laws and the government will implement reforms after holding informed discussions.

The review, which is expected to go beyond past proposals such as the Arrest Referral Scheme, is expected to be tabled in Parliament before the summer recess.


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