What ARE they on? As one police force says it will let off heroin users, former top detective PHILIP FLOWER reveals the violence and misery that drugs can cause
By PHILIP FLOWER FOR THE DAILY MAIL PUBLISHED 18 December 2018
The gangsters and dealers flooding Britain’s streets with hard drugs will be delighted by news that Thames Valley Police plans to introduce the most lenient policy on illegal substances ever seen in this country.
Users found in possession of Class A drugs including heroin, cocaine and ecstasy will be sent on their way without so much as an official caution. Incredibly, the new policy is simply to let people off for drugs offences.
Their stash will be confiscated, and officers will politely recommend that the user visits an addiction advice service. That’s it. Police will not even follow up the incident, to find out how many users seek help as suggested.
I was a senior police officer for many years. The people I arrested in possession of drugs were often in a dreadful state, suffering with mental health problems that in many cases were caused by drugs.
It’s hopelessly naive to imagine that, left to their own devices, addicts will voluntarily seek out the help they need.
But the stupidity of this insidious policy goes much deeper than mere naivety. It actively erodes the police’s ability to exercise control on the streets.
From long experience, I know that in almost every case where officers follow up a petty drugs seizure, more crime will be uncovered. When police search a user’s address, they will frequently find more drugs, other users and stolen goods. Drug arrests, even for very small amounts, usually enable police to clear up other crimes and catch other criminals.
This can include the discovery of major organised crime rings. When I was in charge of the West End Central district of the Met in London, overseeing Soho, we pursued a robust drugs policy.
That was a direct response to theatres and businesses who told us customers were being driven away by the fear of crime associated with drug abuse.
What we discovered, thanks to a major covert operation, was that many people who claimed to be small-time users were frequently suppliers as well. They concealed their true activities by carrying only very small amounts of drugs, never enough to raise suspicion that they were the real dealers.
By studying CCTV of their activities, we exposed a sophisticated supply network. High-level dealers were bringing vulnerable people to the UK to sell drugs on the street.
They never carried enough for more than one or two customers at a time – never so much that it could raise suspicions that they were dealing. In fact, they always had a much bigger stash hidden nearby.
This was a clever approach because, when taken to court, the seller would claim they had it only for personal use.
Then they’d tell a sob story about their numerous social and personal problems, in the sure hope that the court would be lenient in its sentencing.
The gang bosses knew how to exploit this. The penalties they meted out to dealers who ‘grassed’ and co-operated with police were far more Draconian than anything the courts could threaten to impose.
Vulnerable youngsters were warned that their friends and family, often back home in another country, would be the ones to suffer if anyone stepped out of line.
This is the rule of fear that enables ruthless drug lords to operate networks stretching all over the country today, the so-called ‘county lines’ system.