Human rights implications in Substance Addiction Bill

Human rights implications in Substance Addiction Bill

May 19, 2016

The Human Rights Commission supports the broad intent of the Substance Addiction (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Bill but says changes are needed to address significant human rights implications.

“We support the bill’s broad intent but appropriate safeguards need to be put in place,” said Chief Legal Advisor Janet Anderson Bidois.

“The compulsory assessment and treatment frameworks should only limit human rights and freedoms to the minimum extent possible: A proportionate approach is required.”

“Some aspects of the Bill go too far and further safeguards are required in order to get the right balance.”  

The way in which the legislation is implemented in practice is also important.

“This will depend to a large degree on the availability of suitable funding, treatment centres and experienced staff,” said Ms Anderson Bidois.

“Inadequate resourcing in this area will affect the potential effectiveness of the legislation and could increase the likelihood of human rights breaches in its application.” 

The Human Rights Commission’s submission flagged 10 key areas of concern.  These include:

  • The possibility that patients could be held in police cells or other inappropriate facilities while awaiting admission to a “treatment centre.” 
  • The proposed ability for treating staff to check and withhold incoming and outgoing mail and electronic communications and to remove electronic devices.
  • Practical concerns about the lack of time frames for dealing with requests for urgent review of decisions around compulsory status and the ability to access legal advice and clinical second opinions
  • Technical drafting concerns about the capacity tests and principles of informed consent 
  • Arbitrary longer detention periods for people who have been diagnosed with a brain injury 

Read our Submission

Read the Commission's Submission to the Health Select Committee on the Substance Addiction (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Bill.

Learn More

Chief legal adviser Janet Anderson-Bidois spoke to Radio NZ about the proposed legislation.

Human Rights Commission

The Commission works for a free, fair, safe and just New Zealand, where diversity is valued and human dignity and rights are respected.