HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Police Chiefs Plan Softer Approach To Hard Drugs
Pubdate: Thu, 02 May 2002
Source: Independent  (UK)
Copyright: 2002 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Author: Paul Peachey


Chief constables will call today for some heroin and cocaine users to be 
sent for treatment rather than ending up in court.

In radical plans for a shake-up of the drug laws, the Association of Chief 
Police Officers (Acpo) also proposes a more relaxed approach towards those 
caught with small amounts of cannabis.

A similar policy has been pioneered under the direction of Brian Paddick, 
the controversial commander whose tactics have led to an increase in 
arrests for hard drugs in his south London borough.

Figures out in March showed that drug arrests rose by more than 65 per cent 
in a year in Lambeth after Commander Paddick decided not to arrest cannabis 
users and instead pursue heroin and crack cocaine dealers.

The Metropolitan Police's statistics showed that there were 159 class A 
drug arrests in Lambeth in February compared with 96 for both cannabis and 
class A drugs in the same month last year.

Levels of street crime were cut by 35 per cent and burglaries were down as 
was the number of hours that police were using for paperwork following 
cannabis arrests.

In Lambeth, cannabis users have had their drugs confiscated but given only 
a verbal warning.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, announced plans in October to 
reclassify cannabis from a class B to a class C drug. Acpo said officers 
should be allowed to make the decision on whether to caution users or take 
firmer action that could lead to the courts.

In its national policy statement, Acpo said it looked forward to the time 
when those who appear in court for misuse of class A drugs will have 
immediate access to treatment. It added that using hard drugs was often a 
health issue but users were instead being punished.

Immediate treatment should sometimes be a real alternative to a caution or 
conviction, the statement from Acpo's influential drugs committee said.

The move would allow addicts to seek treatment instead of being prosecuted. 
It is likely to revive the heated debate on the issue but the Government is 
unlikely to accept further relaxation of drugs laws.

The chief constables remain opposed to the decriminalisation of all drugs, 
warning that it could lead to a rise in crime with a wave of "drug 
tourists" coming into the country. They are also against the downgrading of 
ecstasy from class A to class B and the establishment of "shooting 
galleries", or safe areas where heroin addicts can inject the drug.

The committee's chairman, the Metropolitan Police deputy assistant 
commissioner Andy Hayman, told The Times: "Greater use of treatment is the 
real option. Use of class A drugs is a health issue but we are giving a 
punitive response."

Last year he told the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that he would 
support the reclassification of ecstasy if "medical and scientific evidence 
suggests it".

It has also emerged that senior police officers had looked into proposals 
to issue heroin to addicts at police stations. Acpo said it was not a firm 
policy statement but made it possible to have heroin regulated and 
monitored from police stations.
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