HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Drug Cautions Go Off The Record
Pubdate: Thu, 08 Feb 2001
Source: Times, The (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd
Contact:  PO Box 496, London E1 9XN, United Kingdom
Fax: +44-(0)171-782 5046
Author: Richard Ford, Home Correspondent


The slate is to be wiped clean for hundreds of thousands of people who have 
had to admit to employers that they have been cautioned by police.

The plans announced by Jack Straw yesterday will be particularly important 
to thousands of young people  including his own son  who have been 
cautioned for minor drugs offences.

The move, which will be seen as a softening of the official stance on 
drugs, came as the Home Office rejected the key recommendations of an 
independent inquiry into drug laws.

Until now, a police caution, reprimand or final warning has been deemed to 
be part of a criminal record. That meant it had to be declared if raised at 
a job interview and could lead to a rejection of visa applications. Such 
warnings are never expunged under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, 
1974, but the Home Office now says that they should be considered as spent 
immediately. The police will still keep a record of cautions and may use 
them as evidence in future criminal proceedings.

In its response to the drugs inquiry, the Home Office said: "The Government 
has accepted that there is a problem relating to the stigma attached to 
possessing a caution; for example when asked to confirm the existence of a 
criminal record by a prospective employer."

Cautions are given after a person has been arrested. He or she is taken to 
a police station and, if they admit the offence, are formally cautioned. 
Reprimands and final warnings are issued to offenders aged between 10 and 
17. A total of 266,100 people were cautioned in 1999, about a quarter of 
them for drugs offences.

The most public cases of caution and reprimand in recent years involved 
William Straw and Euan Blair, elder son of the Prime Minister. William 
Straw was cautioned in 1998 after admitting selling cannabis to a 
journalist for ?10. Euan Blair, 16, was reprimanded for being drunk and 
incapable in Leicester Square last year.

Although it plans to change the status of cautions, the Government rejected 
most of Lady Runciman of Doxford's report on drugs, which called for 
reclassification and an end to jail terms for possession of cannabis and 
Ecstasy.  Lady Runciman condemned the response as mistaken and complacent.
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