Pubdate: Sun, 04 Dec 2005
Source: Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: Telegraph Group Limited 2005
Authors: Daniel Foggo and Carl Fellstrom
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


The police force at the centre of a controversial Government drugs
initiative has jumped from the bottom of performance tables for
solving drugs crime to the top.

It follows the decision that people possessing large amounts of Class
A substances should not be prosecuted for dealing.

Official statistics show that in the space of a year Nottinghamshire
Police has gone from being the joint second worst of England and
Wales's 43 forces for clearing up drugs crime to the best in the country.

But the transformation coincided with the force being used as the
testing ground for the new policy for fighting drugs crimes. It means
that anyone possessing seven grams of heroin or cocaine or 17 ounces
of cannabis - enough for about 2,400 joints - is seen as having them
for personal use.

People with such quantities may previously have been prosecuted for
dealing but are now charged with lesser offences requiring no further

The policy was revealed last week and the Home Office now wants to
roll it out nationally. Critics say the approach means that most
pushers are escaping prosecution, and the Association of Chief Police
Officers said that most would end up simply carrying amounts just
below the prescribed limits.

A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Police said officers were very pleased
at the impact the policy had made on its statistical

But Patrick Mercer, the Tory MP for Newark, said the guidelines were a
declaration to street drug dealers to ply their trade.

He said: "The turnaround seems too good to be true to me. I am
concerned that police are taking an easy option and concentrating on
statistics rather than clearing up crime."

Nottinghamshire's progression up the tables is all the more remarkable
because its chief constable, Steve Green, told this newspaper in March
that his officers couldn't cope with the number of murders in
Nottingham, many related to drug turf wars.

The scheme's effect on the statistics has been startling. In 2003-4
Nottinghamshire police recorded 4,582 drugs offences and claimed a
"detection rate" of 89 per cent. The latter figure was well below the
national average of 93 per cent and placed on a par with the West
Midlands and Bedfordshire forces. Only the Metropolitan Police
performed worse.

But when the figures for 2004-5 were compiled, the number of drugs
offences had dropped to 3,959 and the detection rate rocketed to 103
per cent. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake