Pubdate: Sun, 26 Dec 1999
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: Guardian Media Group plc. 1999
Author: Tony Thompson and John Arlidge


Police Will Be Too Stretched To Worry About Prosecutions During
Millennium Celebrations 

People will not be punished for smoking cannabis and taking drugs
during millennium celebrations as part of unprecedented police plans
to adopt a 'maximum tolerance' policy for the biggest celebration the
world has ever seen.

As millions of people prepare to take to the streets for parties next
weekend, police forces across the country are expected to turn a blind
eye to drug use, enabling thousands of revellers to take drugs with
virtually no risk of being prosecuted.

Although the official police line is that they will respond to any
crime as firmly as at any other time of the year, officers on the beat
privately admit that, with up to five million people taking to the
streets, they will struggle to cope with the higher than normal levels
of drunkenness, let alone drug-taking.

'If you tried to arrest every person smoking a spliff at the Notting
Hill Carnival, you'd have a riot on your hands,' said one Metropolitan
Police officer who will be working during the celebrations. 'We'd also
fill every police station in the country in a few hours. During the
millennium we might warn people to be a bit more discreet, but that's
as far as it goes. It will go on as long as the celebrations go on -
probably at least two days.'

However, while anyone using small amounts of drugs on a personal basis
is likely to be ignored, police are expected to crack down on dealing.
Fears have begun to surface that recent seizures have forced some
dealers to adulterate current supplies of drugs to stretch them over
the celebrations.

Some of the additives are impure and can cause sickness or even death.
Three drug-related deaths have been recorded during the last week and
police fear more could follow next weekend.

The biggest crowds are expected to turn out in London and Edinburgh.
Emergency services have been placed on red alert with a series of
drastic measures to ensure public safety and to counter the effects of
the millennium bug, which could strike computers that have not been
programmed to recognise dates after 1999.

All police leave has been cancelled nationwide. Troops in London and
elsewhere are on standby, with some ready to move at 10 minutes'
notice. Extra hospital, fire and ambulance staff are on duty. A
flotilla of emergency boats will patrol the Thames.

Mobile phone networks face emergency cut-offs for all except key
services as people swamp the networks with calls to friends and family.

Key government Ministers are to meet at the Ministry of Defence at 7pm
on Millennium Eve and again at 9am the following morning.

They insist Britain is better prepared than any other country to cope
with crowds and computer crashes, but still admit things could go wrong.

Emergency services have been warned to expect problems as varied as a
rush of millennium babies, mass suicides by religious cults expecting
the end of the world, and a terrorist attack on the Millennium Dome.
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