Pubdate: Fri, 12 Sep 2003
Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: 2003 Telegraph Group Limited
Author: John Steele, Crime Correspondent
Cited: Association of Chief Police Officers
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


Police should no longer arrest the majority of people found in
possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use, according to
new guidelines issued yesterday by the Association of Chief Police

Instead, offenders should receive a verbal warning on the street after
giving their details and admitting possession of the drug, which would
then be confiscated. Such a warning will not constitute a criminal

However, the power of arrest for cannabis possession will remain.
Officers can use their discretion to arrest if: the drug is consumed
in public; the person is a repeat user; the possession is deemed to
create public order difficulties, or cause a "locally identified
policing problem"; or it is found around young people in places such
as schools or youth clubs.

Those arrested may still face prosecution or conviction, or a formal
caution, both of which leave a criminal record.

People under 18 found in possession of cannabis will receive a formal
warning at a police station. Under-tens caught with the drug will be
considered "at risk".

The Government has decided to re-classify cannabis from a Class B drug
to a Class C substance to reduce the police time spent on arresting or
formally cautioning people found in possession. The aim is to focus on
Class A hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, stressed that cannabis "will not
be legalised or decriminalised".

Under existing law, police can arrest for Class B drug possession, but
not for possession of Class C substances.

However, police did not want to lose the power of arrest in relation
to cannabis. Therefore, as well as ordering the downgrading of
cannabis, the Home Office has introduced a measure into the Criminal
Justice Bill to retain the power of arrest. Both measures are
scheduled to come into law next January, when ACPO will activate its

Andy Hayman, the chairman of the ACPO drugs sub-committee and Chief
Constable of Norfolk, said: "In the spirit of the Home Secretary's
decision to reclassify cannabis, the new guidance recommends that
there should be a presumption against arrest.

"In practice, this means that in the majority of cases officers will
issue a warning and confiscate the drug. Police officers will be
expected to use their discretion.

"The reclassification of cannabis will allow police to focus more time
and resources on Class A drugs. That said, despite reclassification,
it remains illegal to possess cannabis."

The guidelines do not specify the quantity of cannabis defined as for
simple personal possession, as this could encourage dealers to carry
around only amounts smaller than the prescribed limit. Police would
also face difficulties in judging amounts.

ACPO advises that street interviews "should be short but sufficient to
prove the offence or identify a defence. This could be as little as
two questions, such as 'What is this?' and 'Whose is it?'. This should
be recorded contemporaneously in an officer's pocketbook.

"This would reduce paperwork and bureaucracy for patrol

Incidents of possession dealt with by warnings will still be recorded
as "cleared up" crimes. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake