HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Police Back Softer Line On Drug Users
Pubdate: Thu, 02 May 2002
Source: BBC News (UK Web)
Copyright: 2002 BBC
Contact: http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/talking_point/forum/
Website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/558

POLICE BACK SOFTER LINE ON DRUG USERS

Police chiefs say they would have a better chance of winning the war 
on drugs if addicts were given treatment instead of punishment.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) also believes it 
would be better to adopt a more relaxed stance towards people caught 
with small amounts of cannabis.

ACPO unveiled its proposals in a report, carried out by its 
influential drugs committee, saying in some circumstances, treatment 
should be considered instead of prosecution.

Drugs' groups have welcomed the report, saying ACPO had been moving 
in this direction for some time.

And the Home Office has pledged to study the findings.

Commander Andy Hayman, chairman of the ACPO committee that produced 
the report, said: "It is predominantly a health issue so what we're 
saying is that we should be matching the health issue with the health 
option.

"Rather than just putting people through the courts, surely it's 
sensible to try and put them into treatment and try and treat their 
habit."

Treatment supported

Roger Howard, chief executive of Drugscope, a research and drugs 
policy advisory body, said the proposals came as no surprise.

He said: "We strongly support efforts to get drug users quickly into 
treatment rather than using a prosecution and pressing criminal 
charges.

"It is something Drugscope has already recommended to the Home 
Affairs Committee.

"This is a new and welcome departure in how we respond to the heavy 
end drug users.

"The police are recognising that treatment works rather than just 
processing addicts through the courts."

Dave Roberts, head of Liverpool rehabilitation centre the 
Independence Initiative, also welcomed the police chiefs' call.

"It makes sense to treat, train and develop people who have developed 
a problem of substance mis-use because they can break with it and 
they can create a new life," he said.

Enforcement call

But among critics former shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe 
described the move as "the policy of surrender" and advocated tougher 
application of the law.

Speaking on BBC News 24, she said: "The law isn't properly enforced.

"Unless you send out the message, not only that there is a law, but 
also that it will be enforced and then you enforce it properly with 
extra manpower and dedicated resources, then the present law won't 
work."

She stressed the need for a dual policy of punishment and treatment.

She said: "You could perhaps make an agreement to treatment a case to 
mitigate or lower the punishment, but you still do both."

There was also a cautious response from some in the medical profession.

Drugs treatment specialist Dr William Shanahan told BBC News there 
was "anxiety" that people who simply wanted to avoid prison would 
take advantage of treatment if offered as an alternative.

But he added: "This doesn't mean they won't do well with treatment 
and I think it is a good idea to offer more people treatment."

More options

Commander Hayman, who is a Scotland Yard deputy assistant 
commissioner, said his committee's report was "timely" given recent 
government announcements, which have included the downgrading of 
cannabis.

He stressed that the overall aim of ACPO's drugs policy was to 
disrupt and reduce supply while working to achieve reduction in 
demand.

Last December, it emerged that police chiefs had examined proposals 
to issue heroin at police stations, to addicts.

However, chief constables reportedly remain opposed to the 
decriminalisation of drugs and are also against the downgrading of 
Ecstasy from class A to class B.
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