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Police could be getting invasive new powers over punters at festivals

The Victorian Government is reportedly considering giving police the authority to stop and search punters without cause, in an attempt to stamp out drug use at festivals.

According to The Herald Sun, the state government and Victoria police are currently in discussion to ramp up police powers following a number of recent fatal and near-fatal incidents at Victorian music festivals.

Under the proposed changes, cops would no longer need to have a “reasonable suspicion” that a person was under the influence or in possession of illegal drugs before searching them.

“There has been very serious harm caused by drugs at music festivals,” police minister Lisa Neville told the paper on Sunday. “This is about protecting lives and ensuring music festivals are great places for young people to get together — not places for tragedies.”

While medical experts continue to advocate for legal pill testing at music festivals, Neville slammed the idea. “As a parent, I wouldn’t want someone telling my son that this drug is safe when it can’t be guaranteed,” she said.

Neville’s comments mirror those of her boss, Premier Daniel Andrews, who last year said pill testing could lead to the normalisation of drug taking.

Of course there’s also the danger that giving the police increased powers could lead to riskier drug taking behaviour, with Greens MP Colleen Hartland warning that people may injest large amounts of drugs in a panic in order to avoid being caught.

Meanwhile, harm-reduction advocacy group High Alert has slammed the proposal. “We’re now at the point of straight-up taking people’s legal rights away from them,” they wrote on Facebook. “When excessive force is used to attempt to squash a problem, unintended, and potentially worse, consequences are seen.”

Feature image via Transport Accident Commission