First-time cocaine and cannabis users will not be prosecuted but offered education programmes
First-time users of cocaine and cannabis are offered education or treatment programs rather than prosecution under new plans being devised by police chiefs.
Officers would agree to take no further action against those caught in possession of illegal drugs, including those in Classes A and B, for the first time under new proposals being drafted by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing.
This would avoid criminal convictions but would result in criminal prosecution if they failed to participate in education or treatment programs or if caught with drugs again.
Currently, 14 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, including Durham, Thames Valley and West Midlands, already operate under similar schemes, but the new initiatives would establish a consistent approach across the country.
First-time users of cocaine and cannabis are offered education or treatment programs rather than prosecution under new plans being devised by police chiefs
Officers would record “no further action” if “action was taken to prevent re-offending or to change behavior by addressing the root cause of the offending.”
This means that first-time offenders neither have to plead guilty nor have a criminal record.
Adopting the system nationally would bring the UK in line with countries like Portugal, which divert those caught with small amounts of drugs to similar education or rehabilitation programmes.
However, the plans could be seen as controversial as they pit police and health officials against the government, which hopes to implement a “three strikes and out” approach to recreational drug use, The Telegraph reports.
If the government’s draft is approved, it could mean that recreational drug users could be banned from traveling abroad, banned from driving or electronically drug-tagged in an attempt to end their addiction.
According to the organization Transform, the white paper entitled Swift, Certain, Tough: New Consequences for Drug Possession also provides for an intensification of controls and searches by the police.
Earlier this year, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said at the Tory conference in October that cannabis use had effectively been decriminalised.
Officers would agree to take no further action against those caught for the first time in possession of illegal drugs, including Class A and B drugs. Image: Stock photo of someone with cannabis
There were also claims that Braverman wanted to make cannabis a Class A drug after declaring it was a gateway drug to more harmful substances, but that suggestion was quickly dismissed by No. 10, who said there were no plans to do so change drug class.
The number of indicted drug offenders has fallen from 33.3 percent in 2015 to 19.3 percent in June this year.
However, an open letter to the government released on Sunday showed that 500 public health and drug organizations and experts said they had “serious concerns” about the minister’s plans to criminalize young and vulnerable people.
Instead, they urged the government to direct resources toward “health interventions that have been shown to reduce harm” rather than law enforcement.
The number of indicted drug offenders has fallen from 33.3 percent in 2015 to 19.3 percent in June this year. Pictured: Stock photo of cocaine
The signatures on the letter included the Association of Directors of Public Health, the Public Health Faculty, the Police Foundation and the British Medical Association.
The letter was coordinated after findings from the 14 police systems that had already implemented the system showed that only five to 20 percent of participants reoffended
Jason Harwin, a former NPCC drug leader and former deputy police chief who is working with the College of Policing on the new strategy, told The Telegraph: “We shouldn’t be criminalizing anyone for drug possession. It should be a diversion to other services to give them the opportunity to change their behavior.”
Mr Harwin added that the government’s new proposals for first-time offenders were “too rigid” and penalties such as confiscation of passports would make penalties for drug users harsher than for robbers.
An open letter to the government released on Sunday showed 500 public health and drug organizations and experts said they had “serious concerns” about the minister’s plans. Pictured: Stock image of Cannabis
Professor David Strain, chair of the BMA Science Committee, said the government’s plans appeared to “double down on a failed model, encouraging more and more hasher sanctions that perpetuate the stigma and shame” already surrounding drug users trying to to get help.
He added that the government’s new white paper, if adopted, would discourage those trying to access the health care they need.
dr Adam Holland, Chair of the Public Health Special Interest Group on Drugs, said: “Drug diversion schemes are a promising way to avoid criminalization of drug users.
“Rather than arresting, prosecuting, or formally charging those caught in possession of drugs, they are instead diverted from the criminal justice system to receive targeted education and assistance.”
A Home Office spokesman told MailOnline: “Drugs ruin lives and devastate communities, which is why the Government has committed to addressing both the supply and demand for drugs, as set out in the 10-year drug strategy.
“Our white paper on new, tougher penalties for drug possession includes proposals to address demand and we welcomed views on them. We will publish our response in due course.’