It’s been a bit of a turbulent year for the Sydney leg of the Defqon.1 Festival following the widely publicised death of a 26-year-old festival-goer at the 2015 event. The drug-related death followed a similar incident in 2013 where another 23-year-old patron died under similar circumstances. The Defqon deaths tie into a wider pattern of drug-related festival deaths which continue to provoke fan debate over harm minimisation and Australian drug culture.
While there were no recorded fatalities at the 2016 event, an increased police presence led to 77 arrests for possession of illegal drugs. From the 25,000-strong crowd present at Sydney’s International Regatta Centre, a further six were slapped with the more serious criminal charge of supplying prohibited drugs. Another 44 patrons returned positive results for drug driving.
The festival task force represented the largest to have attended the festival to date, comprising of not only members of the Penrith Local Area Command but also additional officers from Sydney’s North West Metropolitan Region and the NSW Dog Squad.
Additional arrests were made in relation to alcoholism and anti-social behaviour. 630 random breath tests were conducted, with eight punters charged for drunk driving. There was also a heightened medical presence and 200 attendees received medical treatment with six of these requiring hospital transport.
With pill testing looking set to go ahead in all states bar NSW and increasing Government scrutiny of the harmful impacts of sniffer dogs at festivals, incidents like Defqon 1 may become a less common occurrence for Australian festival-goers. Until then though, punters may be faced with an increased risk of criminal sanctions while taxpayers continue to foot the bill.
Image: Sydney Morning Herald