Magistrate Stella Stuthridge backs public drunkenness law change, plans to leave the North East

MOVING ON: Magistrate Stella Stuthridge will soon leave the North East to take up a new role.

MOVING ON: Magistrate Stella Stuthridge will soon leave the North East to take up a new role.

The move to abolish public drunkenness as a crime has been supported by magistrate Stella Stuthridge, who says getting rid of the possibility of jail for possessing small amounts of cannabis should be next.

The Victorian government made the announcement on the drunk laws last week, saying the focus would move to offering health support instead.

"It's not a really good way to repair someone who has a chronic illness, immediately locking them up," Ms Stuthridge said.

"We recognise that locking someone in the cells for four to eight hours is a really poor outcome for them and not safe."

She was speaking in Wangaratta on Thursday at a Women in Leadership breakfast.

"I actually would like the state government to go a step further and get rid of a whole range of minor alcohol and drug-related offences because they're not an effective intervention," she said.

"The justice system is not an effective mechanism for public health."

Drug users caught with a small amount of cannabis can be sent to jail, but usually receive a good behaviour bond or a small fine.

After more than a decade based in the North East, Ms Stuthridge will soon move to Melbourne to put together Victoria's new family violence reforms.

She said she has heard criticism from the community about criminals not being jailed often enough, but would rather see the $87,000 spent on each prisoner every year spent on other things like kindergartens.

"Sometimes you have to give people an opportunity," she said.

She also used her speech - delivered in front of women including federal and state MPs Helen Haines and Tania Maxwell, and Wangaratta hospital chief executive Margaret Bennett - to call on female leaders to "step up".

The magistrate described her life growing up in a dysfunctional family, where she often skipped school and had issues with her anger, before becoming a successful lawyer and magistrate.

She told a story of meeting a man she described as "a racist, sexist bastard", but instead of dismissing him, she chose to discuss and challenge him on his views.

"It's not just about being a leader in your profession, it about really getting your head around what your obligations are external to your professional career, about what your obligations are in the community and stepping up every time," Ms Stuthridge said.

"You may not change the world, but you'll change a little bit of the world and it is your responsibility to do that."

This story First public drunkenness, next cannabis, says magistrate first appeared on The Border Mail.