A call by Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Alan Charles for a national review of the UK drugs policy won overwhelming support from delegates attending his multi-agency drugs conference today (Thursday 25 June).
The Commissioner will now make his plea to the Government for a review with the backing of a pledge signed by 89% of the 110 delegates. His supporters included academics, health leads and practitioners from across the UK working in all areas of drugs and substance abuse. Of those present, 91% agreed that current UK drugs Policy is not working.
He also had a ‘Yes’ vote from 88% of delegates in response to his question: “Is an approach that focuses more on health, prevention and education more appropriate than the current criminal justice approach?”
Commissioner Charles said: “I shall now be writing to the Home Secretary Theresa May outlining the discussions that have taken place, and hope that she will engage with the very best experts in all appropriate fields to ensure wider involvement in the debate.
“I understand that this is a difficult issue for any government to deal with, but it’s clear that the damage and destruction caused by drugs is continuing apace, so continuing to tackle it in the same way achieves nothing. The 1971 Misuse of drugs act is no longer fit for purpose and we need to address this societal problem.”
Backing for the Commissioner’s stance also came from Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon. He said: “I support Alan Charles and Ron Hogg, Durham’s PCC, in their drive to stimulate the debate on this really complicated subject. In all my experience prohibition alone can never solve the problem. Organised criminality exploits those who use these drugs; they engage in a range of criminal behaviour including violence, coercion and gun crime - and they make vast criminal profit. Any strategy that reduces their opportunities is welcome. As much as we lock up the individuals and gangs, they are replaced with the next generation of importers, traffickers and street dealers who continue the industry.”
Discussion and debate at the conference in The Post Mill Centre, South Normanton, ranged from stopping prohibition to more investment in health, prevention and education in order to reduce the demand for drugs and an overview of drug policies across the world.
Commissioner Charles organised the conference to highlight the current response to drug crime locally and nationally. He strongly believes that the best way forward is to concentrate on harm reduction and helping people gripped by addiction to rebuild their lives in the long-term.
The focus he wants to see would be two-fold – helping people to contribute to society as well as keeping the streets crime and drug free, which could not be achieved through enforcement alone. Drug dealers, he firmly maintained, should continue to face the full arm of the law.
Speakers at the event included Dr Liz Austen, Lecturer of Criminology at Sheffield Hallam University; Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg; Chief Constable Mick Creedon; Steve Holme Crime and Intelligence, Derbyshire Constabulary with Tim Allin from ‘Stay True’ Derby; and Derek Ward, Professor of Public Health and Director of the Health and Social Care Research Centre at the University of Derby.
PCC Ron Hogg has previously voiced his concerns that the existing national drug policy is in need of reform. He favours treating addiction as an illness that should be treated, rather than an offence best dealt with through the criminal justice system. He held a Drugs Symposium in November 2014, calling for a national debate about reforming drug policy.
The Office for National Statistics registered nearly 3,000 drug poisoning deaths involving both legal and illegal drugs in 2013 in England and Wales.
Photograph: (from left to right) Dr Liz Austen, Danny Kushlick, Durham PCC Ron Hogg, Deputy PCC for Derbyshire Hardyal Dhindsa, Derbyshire PCC Alan Charles, Professor Derek Ward
The panel for the debate ‘Is current UK Drugs Policy Working’ included:Alan Charles (Chair) Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner
- Martyn Bates, Assistant Chief Constable, Derbyshire Constabulary
- Suanne Lim, Head of Service, Derby Youth Offending Service
- Ron Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham
- Liz Austen, Principal Lecturer in Criminology
- Derek Ward, Professor of Public Health
- Dot Inger, founder of ‘SPODA’ Derbyshire
- Danny Kushlick, Head of External Affairs Transform Drug Policy Foundation
Posted on Thursday 25th June 2015