Pubdate: Sun, 30 Dec 2012
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: 2012 The Scotsman Publications Ltd


Millions of pounds seized from drug dealers should be funnelled into a
new independent research body in a bid to tackle the country's drug
problems, claim campaigners.

In a highly critical report, the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC)
warns that a lack of leadership and high turnover of ministers and
civil servants is hindering progress.

A new body funded by up to UKP10 million a year in cash raised through
the confiscated assets of drug-related crime is required to improve
drug policy, the UKDPC says, while politicians should establish a
cross-party forum to decide where progress could be made.

The 18-month study, titled How To Make Drug Policy Better, comes after
Prime Minister David Cameron ruled out a fundamental review of the
government's approach to illegal drugs.

Mr Cameron dismissed calls from the cross-party home affairs select
committee to hold a wide-ranging Royal Commission to consider
alternative approaches, including legalisation.

Discussing the process for testing the effectiveness of policies, a
senior political adviser told the UKDPC: "Our impact assessment system
is broken and needs to be completely reformed."

The report, based on interviews with former home secretaries, drugs
ministers, senior civil servants and policy experts, warns there is a
lack of serious discussion about the aims of drug policy and options
are not adequately researched or tested.

The UK also lacks evaluation of existing and alternative policies,
according to the research, while a rapid succession of drugs ministers
is harming efforts to improve policy.

There have been four drugs ministers and three Home Office civil
servants with lead responsibility for drugs since the 2010 election,
the UKDPC said.

UKDPC chief executive Roger Howard said: "We have not been taking
evidence seriously. As a result, we are spending billions of pounds a
year tackling drug problems, without always knowing what difference it

"We need a body that takes responsibility for collecting and sharing
evidence. Until we get serious about this, we will continue to be
driving blind with many of our drug policies."

The commission says a new independent body could provide leadership,
commission new research and assess current drug and alcohol strategies.

In addition to funding from various research councils, the UKDPC says
there may be a case for some resources being raised through the
forfeiture of crime assets  as happens in Australia.

In October, UKDPC published the results of a six-year study. The
report, A Fresh Approach to Drugs, found that of UKP3 billion spent
annually tackling drugs in the UK, at least UKP2bn is not supported by
clear evidence. 
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