Police forced to take drugs policy into their own hands by Government failings, says ex-Met police chief
Charles Hymas, Home Affairs Editor Telegraph16 January 2020
Police are being forced to take drugs policy into their own hands because of failings by Government and Parliament, says a former Scotland Yard Commissioner.
Lord Stevens said the apparent “backdoor decriminalisation” of cannabis by police revealed by The Daily Telegraph yesterday (Thur) was taking place “without proper discussion and proper decision-making in Parliament.”
He said: “The police should not be making the law, it’s Parliament that makes the law. I would be very worried if this kind of thing went on in terms of decriminalising by the backdoor.
“I believe in a Parliamentary democracy and Parliament needs to be involved in it although I can understand why it is happening because of a [lack of] resource.”
Lord Stevens, who was Metropolitan Police Commissioner from 2000 to 2005, urged the Government to set up a six-month inquiry to develop a drugs strategy that would include giving a clear direction to police on how Parliament wanted cannabis users tackled.
He was backed by Hugh Order, a former President of the Association of Chief Police Officers and Northern Ireland chief constable, and Lord Blunkett, a former Home Secretary, who both criticised the current “ad hoc” approach to drugs.
Their comments follow the disclosure yesterday by The Telegraph that up to two-thirds of users in parts of Britain are being let off with informal “community resolutions” without getting a criminal record.
Community resolutions provide an alternative to formal charges, fines, cautions or police warnings and have increased more than ten-fold in just three years in some forces.
Lord Stevens said he was opposed to legalising cannabis having carried out research in Amsterdam where he had seen people become addicted due to the availability of cannabis and hard drugs including one young girl of 17 who died as a result.
However, he was also against the criminalising of young first time offenders and people who might need cannabis for medical reasons including a friend whose multiple sclerosis had been eased by taking the drug.
“It’s a complex business but it is not beyond the wit of working parties or Government or the proposed royal commission to come up with an answer,” said Lord Stevens.
Mr Orde said laws on cannabis needed to be reviewed because of the current “ad hoc” approach but he was opposed to decriminalisation because of its risk as a gateway to harder drugs. “It’s the thin end of the wedge, there are progressively stronger strains and it is a real issue in prisons,” he said.
Lord Blunkett said: “It is long overdue to have an overhaul of the whole system and to give very much clearer guidance not just to the police but to health and social services on the whole issue of drugs and related substances.
“The test has to be how do you reduce harm, how do you stop usage leading to transfer to class A drugs and how do you get consistency in the approach across the country. If we can address those three elements, we make a coherent policy.
“At the moment we are staggering from one revelation about a new substance to another. It is almost as if we are following the market, which is not the right approach.”