Splendour In The Grass attendees were “visibly distraught” at the sight of police and sniffer dogs lining the festival’s main thoroughfare, says the emergency medicine specialist who delivered a pill testing demonstration at the Byron Bay event.
Dr David Caldicott told PEDESTRIAN.TV that punters were distressed by the number of uniformed police officers and sniffer dogs attending to the event’s main thoroughfare over the weekend.
There was “clear fear in the faces of people not involved” with the sniffer dogs, Dr Caldicott said, adding he was “very attuned” to the discomfort of punters entering the festival grounds.
Dr Caldicott attended the festival on Saturday to deliver a public demonstration of pill testing technology, which has been successfully deployed at Canberra’s Groovin The Moo event.
His session was attended by Jennie Ross-King, whose 19-year-old daughter Alex Ross-King died in January after overdosing at FOMO Festival.
Earlier this month, a coronial inquiry into a string of drug-related deaths at music festivals heard that Alex Ross-King ingested a significant quantity of MDMA before arriving at FOMO due to fears the illicit drug would be detected by police upon her arrival.
Dr Caldicott said he was “deeply affected” by the presence of her family members, who “wanted to see” how the harm reduction measure operates in a festival environment.
The session was also attended by Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame in relation to the inquiry.
“Whether [the number of police] was the consequence of the presence of the coroner, or standard operating procedure? I don’t know,” Dr Caldicott said.
He was adamant that drugs will remain at music festivals, regardless of law enforcement targeting drug users.
“Unless it’s a Hillsong gathering, there are going to be drugs at festivals,” he said.
NSW Police said on Saturday they would not release information about arrests at the festival until it was over.
In a statement obtained by AAP, Superintendent Dave Roptell said “Festival-goers who choose to do the wrong thing not only compromise their own safety, but also risk the safety of others around them.”
“Anyone under the influence, or who feels unwell, is urged to seek professional medical attention,” he added.