Pubdate: Mon, 03 Sep 2001
Source: Times, The (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd
Author: Francis Wilkinson


Sir, Under the headline "Drug reform 'not limited by treaties' " (report, 
August 28), you report comments by Roger Howard of the charity Drugscope on 
the possibility of relaxing our drug laws.

The UK, like other members of the UN, is required to have laws making drug 
possession a crime (the 1961 Single Convention) and is required to have 
criminal penalties attached to them (the 1988 Vienna Convention). Some 
countries have found ways round these obligations, either, like Italy, by 
referring to basic constitutional freedoms or, like The Netherlands, by 
using discretion not to prosecute.

The main problem with such approaches is that they leave the 
multi-billion-pound drugs business in criminal hands. The Dutch drug cafes 
sell with the approval of the authorities, but buy from organised crime. 
More than half of those in Dutch jails are there through the crime, 
violence and corruption associated with the drugs business.

That crime is only too apparent in Britain, and any improvement to the 
drugs laws in the UK must tackle legalisation of the whole supply chain, 
not just of possession. That cannot be done within the existing UN treaties.

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee is to inquire into the 
effectiveness of the Government's drug policies this autumn. I hope that it 
will recommend, among other things, a review of these treaties.

Yours faithfully, FRANCIS WILKINSON (Chief Constable, Gwent Police, 
1997-99), 52 Hornsey Lane, N6 5LU. August 28.
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