British Police Prepared To Support Relaxed Laws

British Police Prepared To Support Relaxed Laws
Posted by FoM on November 21, 2001 at 16:32:40 PT
By Mike Wendling, London Bureau Chief
Top British police officials urged the relaxation of drug laws in an appearance before a House of Commons committee inquiry, prompting rebukes from superiors and cheers from legalization supporters.Metropolitan Police Cmdr. Brian Paddick said Tuesday that actively seeking out and arresting people for the possession of ecstasy was a "waste of valuable police resources."
Paddick told MPs that he did not regard stopping recreational drug use - even use of drugs such as cocaine - as a high police priority."There are a whole range of people who buy drugs - not just cannabis, but even cocaine and ecstasy - with money they have earned legitimately," Paddick said. "They use a small amount of these drugs, a lot of them just at weekends. It has no adverse effect on the rest of the people they are with, either in terms of people they socialise with, or within the wider community."They go back to work on Monday morning and are unaffected for the rest of the week," he said. "In terms of my priorities as a police officer they are low down."Paddick's remarks earned him a rebuke late Tuesday from higher-ups at the Metropolitan Police, London's law enforcement agency."Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens has instructed Cmdr. Paddick that he is expected to follow and implement police policy in relation to Class A drugs," the police said in a statement. Class A drugs are considered the most dangerous by British authorities, and the category includes ecstasy, heroin and cocaine.Paddick later emphasized that his comments to the House of Commons home affairs committee on drug law reform reflected his personal views. Paddick is currently overseeing a six-month experiment in the south London district of Lambeth, where those found in possession of small amounts of cannabis are being warned rather than arrested. Downgrading Ecstasy, Considering 'Shooting Galleries' Also at Tuesday's committee hearing, a spokesman for the U.K.'s Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said the organization might support downgrading ecstasy from Class A to Class B, putting the drug in the came category as amphetamines.Andy Hayman, who also serves as deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, told MPs that downgrading ecstasy would make a "strong statement" about the dangers of other Class A drugs. Hayman said that the police organization would only advocate the move if medical and scientific evidence supported it.Hayman also said the ACPO would consider supporting "shooting galleries" where heroin users could obtain clean needles and health advice. He said the galleries might "reduce the tensions in the community and the erosion of the community" which result from drug use.Hayman declined requests for an interview Wednesday. The ACPO released a statement after his testimony that said the organization advocates a "cautious approach" to shooting galleries and called for more research into the issue. Another top police official, Superintendents' Association president Kevin Morris, told the committee Tuesday that his organization was examining the possibility of supporting further decriminalization of cannabis. Last month, Home Secretary David Blunkett announced that cannabis would be downgraded from Class B to Class C, eliminating arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana starting next year. Campaigners Encouraged Legalization advocates welcomed Tuesday's statements. Danny Kushlick, director of pressure group Transform, said the Commons hearings were part of a dramatic push to reform U.K. drug laws."We see these as interim measures on the way to legalization," Kushlick said by phone Wednesday. "The problem is, these measures would not deal with the supply side of the drugs problem. They will help with adjusting the balance of resources, but they won't affect the mafia or the drug trade."Kushlick predicted that full-scale legalization would be introduced in the U.K. within 10 years and said that changes in heart by conservative politicians and newspapers helped to drive the current push for reform."The cat is out of the bag," Kushlick said. "The pressure is now being brought to bear by the public - and it will be too much for the government to resist."Anti-drug campaigners were less impressed. Janet Betts, whose 18-year-old daughter Leah died after taking ecstasy, was incredulous after Tuesday's hearing."This is unbelievable. I am sick of senior police officers who are just worried about balancing their books," Betts said. "They don't care about the kids on the street."Complete Title: British Police Prepared To Support Relaxed Drug LawsSource: CNSNews.comAuthor: Mike Wendling, London Bureau ChiefPublished: November 21, 2001Copyright: 1998-2001 Cybercast News ServiceContact: shogenson cnsnews.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Transform Police Urge Radical Shift on Drugs Body Says Punishment Does Not Stop Use Advised To Legalise Cannabis Cafes
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