Blair Under Pressure on Soft Policing of Cannabis

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Jul 5, 2002.

  1. By George Jones and Peter Foster
    Source: Daily Telegraph UK

    Tony Blair came under mounting pressure yesterday to abandon plans to extend nationwide a controversial experiment in the "soft" policing of cannabis use. He rejected a demand from Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory leader, to scrap the trial scheme in Lambeth, south London.
    But he told the Commons: "If it doesn't work, then of course we won't extend it, but it is important that we take into account all the relevant views put to us." Mr Duncan Smith said police figures were already clear.

    They showed that drug trafficking had doubled and total drug offences had trebled in Lambeth during the year-long pilot scheme.

    "Community leaders inside the area are all complaining about it," said Mr Duncan Smith. "One has actually said that 'the police have abandoned the streets to the dealers'."

    Mr Blair said there were "differences of opinion" as to whether it had worked or not.

    His comments were notably more cautious than those of Home Office ministers, who have praised the relaxed cannabis laws being piloted in the Brixton area of Lambeth. Under the scheme, people caught with cannabis are cautioned and not arrested.

    Bob Ainsworth, Home Office Minister, claimed in November that the scheme had been a success, saving police time and enabling officers to concentrate on tackling hard drugs.

    But community leaders have complained that the pilot scheme has brought more drug dealers and petty criminals on to the streets and, according to GPs and community workers, caused more children to use the drug.

    Kate Hoey, the Vauxhall MP whose constituency includes Lambeth, met David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, yesterday to ask him to reconsider plans to reclassify cannabis. "Based on what I have seen in Lambeth I do not believe it can be the right decision," she said.

    Ros Griffiths, who runs the Employment Cafe for young people in Brixton, believes the policy has sent the wrong message to petty criminals.

    "We are sick of drug dealers operating openly on our streets and the police doing nothing to stop it," he said. "What message does that send out about the police and drug use? That the laws don't matter."

    A formal announcement is expected on July 13.

    The Lambeth pilot was introduced without consultation by Commander Brian Paddick, who is now being investigated over newspaper allegations about his personal life.

    • A senior criminal judge yesterday accused the police of causing the criminal justice system to "fall apart".

    Judge George Bathhurst-Norman, who sits as senior resident judge at Southwark Crown Court in south London, blamed the Metropolitan Police for delays in bringing defendants to trial.

    He warned that he might consider contempt proceedings against senior officers who he believed were refusing to allow junior colleagues to comply with court orders.

    Judge Bathurst-Norman accused the police of failing to disclose their case to defence teams in good time. As a result, trials had to be adjourned so lawyers could prepare a defence properly.

    The judge said this prompted a further court appearance and an additional drain on the public purse. "Each time it happens, the public loses a minimum of £300," he said.

    Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)
    Author: George Jones and Peter Foster
    Published: Thursday, July 4, 2002
    Copyright: 2002 Telegraph Group Limited

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