Source: Independent, The (UK)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Pubdate: 12 Jan 1999
Author: Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent

ALL FIRST-time drug-users caught by police in London will be referred to a
treatment centre, rather than face prosecution, under a scheme to be
outlined by Scotland Yard today.

The Metropolitan Police estimate 30 per cent of crimes are committed to
obtain money for drugs. The initial findings of a survey by police across
London found a third of people caught breaking the law to feed their drug
habit are shoplifters and 15 per cent are burglars.

Scotland Yard's new drugs directorate, headed by Commander Andy Hayman,
plans to set up arrest referral schemes throughout the London area by March
2000. Drug-users will be given the option of treatment and referral to a
drug worker rather than a fine, a caution or imprisonment. The scheme is
aimed at drug users and will not be offered to dealers. If successful, it
could be adopted by forces throughout the country.

The Met hopes the approach will help to break the link between drugs and
crime. The force is doing research to discover which offences are most
common among drug-users.

The results are expected to be used to target groups and areas. Analysis of
3,500 drug-related offences during a five-month period last year found
1,250 of them were for thefts from shops, 519 for burglary and 153 for
theft from cars.

The Met also announces today a UKP250,000 anti-drugs campaign that will
include posters on buses and warnings on matchboxes and beer-mats.
Commander Hayman said: "The key message is that a high proportion of crime
in London is committed by a small number of prolific offenders who misuse
drugs. If we can target these individuals and either divert them away from
their drug use or put them before the courts, then we can have a dramatic
impact on crime across the capital."

- - Two doctors have volunteered to run the first official patient trials
testing the therapeutic effects of cannabis. Anita Holdcroft, from
Hammersmith Hospital, London, will investigate whether the drug or its
active components can relieve post-operative pain. A trial investigating
its effects on multiple-sclerosis sufferers will be done by John Zajicek,
of Derriford Hospital, Plymouth. 
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