Pubdate: Thu, 9 Apr 1998
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Author: Frank Urquhart


Controversial Police Chief Dismisses Government's New Co-Ordinator As
'Token Appointment'

GRAMPIAN'S controversial Chief Constable, Dr Ian Oliver, yesterday launched
an astonishing attack on the "token appointment" of Keith Hellawell as
Britain's drugs tsar.

Dr Oliver, who first suggested the need for a drugs supremo to the Prime
Minister, Tony Blair, claimed that Britain was still losing the fight
against drug addiction and drug-related crime.

And he alleged that Government policy to combat substance abuse was still
too fragmented and under-resourced to make any significant impact.

Dr Oliver, a leading anti-drugs campaigner, had been widely tipped to be
appointed as Britain's first anti-drugs co-ordinator. The post instead went
to Mr Hellawell, former chief constable of West Yorkshire.

Last night a spokesman for the Cabinet Office, to which Mr Hellawell is
attached, denied Dr Oliver's claims and said: "Far from being token
appointments, the anti-drugs co-ordinator and his deputy bring to the
Government a wide ranging expertise in drugs enforcement, education and
treatment, and a clear remit from the Prime Minister to make a difference."

Dr Oliver made his allegations against the Cabinet Office appointment as he
presented his force's annual review in Aberdeen yesterday, singling out the
"horrendous" problem of drug abuse as the biggest single issue facing both
his force and the nation.

He said: "There has been a token appointment of a co-ordinator and it
remains to be seen how successful he is. But that co-ordinator does not
seem to have the resources available to him to bring about strategies that
are going to make an impact on the problem.

"There is good work being done but it is fragmented, it is dissipated, it
is sometimes in opposition. There isn't enough control over these things.

"And I see very little evidence of centrally driven strategies that apply
across the country that are aimed, not only to make the criminal justice
system more efficient in dealing with offenders, but also in terms of
bringing about the long-term commitment to demand reduction that we need."

Dr Oliver claimed: "Until central Government commits itself to identifiable
strategies across all those areas of social involvement, the likelihood of
a co-ordinated successful outcome is significantly reduced.

"We are being required to make efforts with limited resources, without new
money being directed at a major problem, without centrally driven policies.
And until we do get centrally driven policies that require every agency
concerned in our social structure to deal adequately with the drugs
problem, then we are fighting a losing battle.

"It is huge problem that needs a huge answer to address it. And I am not at
all sure that the people that ought to be addressing this problem have
taken that on board."

He also criticised the response to the drug problem at a local level and
highlighted Grampian's continuing rise in heroin abuse, drug-related deaths
and the appearance of crack cocaine on the streets of north-east towns.

Dr Oliver said: "Drugs under any circumstances are just bad news. We have
huge bad news in the north east. I am not sure that all those people who
ought to be doing something about it have recognised that."

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office told The Scotsman: "Since taking up his
appointment just three months ago, Mr Hellawell has visited and consulted
hundreds of individuals and organisations throughout the country to both
assess the current situation and discuss the way forward.

"He is due to put his recommendations to Government on how to proceed this
spring. At the same time he is reviewing the total amount of money that is
spent by Government in tackling the drugs problem"

External inquiries into allegations against police officers in Grampian
Police are costing the force UKP2,000 a day.

Three investigations - including the inquiry into the force's controversial
handling of the Scott Simpson murder investigation - are being carried out
by senior officers from outside force. Last year the force faced a bill of
almost UKP60,000 for external inquiries.

Dr Oliver, expressed his concern about the money being spent on the
investigations, but he angrily denied suggestions that they reflected a
cancer within his force.