Pubdate: Mon, 06 Mar 2000
Source: Eastern Daily Press (UK)
Copyright: 2000 Eastern Counties Newspapers Group Ltd
Contact:  Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE, UK
Author: Paul Hill


Customs officials deny they will be "soft" on cannabis smugglers, despite a
shift in national policy.

East Anglia's anti-drug smuggling teams have been told to dedicate more
resources and intelligence work to Class A drugs, particularly heroin, even
though cannabis accounts for the vast majority of drug seizures and
possession cases.

Figures for 1998, published by the Home Office last month, showed that
cannabis accounted for three-quarters of the 149,000 drug seizures.

The customs policy shift mirrors the approach of Whitehall's drugs "tsar"
Keith Hellawell, who wants to concentrate on Class A drugs and the effect
they have on other crimes.

John Barber, spokesman for HM Customs and Excise in East Anglia, said that
there was no question of being soft on cannabis.

Officers would still pursue cannabis cases if they found concealed
consignments during checks at ports and airports.

"But we have been asked to put more resources and intelligence effort into
Class A drugs as theses are seen as being more dangerous".

Mr Hellawell believes the use of soft drugs should remain a criminal
offence, but thinks drugs should be targeted according to the "relative
harm they cause."

The customs policy change follows targets by the Government to halve the
number of under 25's using heroin by 2008, and reduce the number of users
by a quarter by 2005.
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D