The Victorian government announced its plan to abolish the crime of public drunkenness four days ahead of an inquest into the death of Tanya Day, who was arrested on the summary charge.

In place of the crime based approach, a health-based approach will be used which will “promote therapeutic and culturally safe pathways to assist alcohol-affected people in public places”, a government statement said.

Jill Hennessy, the state attorney general, made the announcement 22 August 2019 and said she would write to the Victorian coroner, Caitlin English, who is overseeing the three-week inquest into Day’s death, to advise her that the government had committed in principle to abolishing the crime.

“Public drunkenness requires a public health response, not a criminal justice one, and now is the right time to take this important reform forward,” Hennessy said.
“The Andrews Labor government acknowledges the disproportionate impact the current laws have had on Aboriginal people and pay tribute to the community members who have advocated for this change.”

The circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Ms Day occurred after when she was arrested and charged with being drunk in public on 5 December 2017, when a V/Line officer called police after she had fallen asleep on a train from Echuca to Melbourne. Ms Day was taken to Castlemaine police station and placed in the cells to “sober up”, but hit her head and sustained a brain haemorrhage that led to her death in hospital on 22 December.

The inquest began today.