Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles is calling on the Government to take a new look at national drugs policy, in its entirety.
Commissioner Charles pointed out that the world-wide ‘War on Drugs’ launched by President Nixon in 1971 is still raging. “We might win a few battles, but then a whole new war emerges like the Phoenix and we’re off again,” he said. “So, if after 44 years nothing has discernibly changed, I think there is a need to go back to the drawing board and look at the whole issue. The approach to date seems to have had a silo mentality when we need a holistic solution.”
He said he was not advocating the legalisation of controlled drugs, nor was he singling out any particular aspect of the work to tackle the drugs epidemic. “But when existing policy so clearly isn’t working, it’s time to think again and hold an evidenced based review or commission into how we as society deal with the drug problems facing so many individuals, families and society,” he said.
Commissioner Charles is to host a multi-agency drugs conference in the county on June 25 to highlight the current response to drug crime locally and nationally and to call on the government to review through a commission all drugs policy in the UK.
His comments come after plans to ban psychoactive substances (NPS) – the new so-called ‘designer drugs’ on Britain’s streets, which he welcomes – were announced by the Government. The ban criminalises the trade in such substances although personal possession will not become illegal. However Commissioner Charles added that when New Psychoactive Substances are banned there is a real danger that users will look for an alternative substance. This is why we need a holistic approach to UK drugs policy.
Ahead of the conference, Commissioner Charles said: “Professionals from all sectors including health, education and policing are in support of a new national drugs policy that concentrates on recovery and helping people to rebuild their lives in the long-term.
“Prison is often only a quick-fix solution with many offenders returning to their criminal ways the moment they emerge from jail. There needs to be a wholesale focus on recovery, joining up a number of specialisms so that these people receive support in all areas of their life to break addictive patterns.
“We need to be concentrating our ambitions on developing healthy, well-rounded people who can contribute to society as well as keeping our streets crime and drug free. This is not achieved through enforcement alone which clearly hasn’t worked.”
Commissioner Charles added: “When I talk about helping people, I’m referring to the people whose lives are gripped by addiction, not the criminals who are making money by exploiting their habits. Drug dealers should continue to face the full arm of the law. Policing the issue is resource intensive, and this is more than a police problem. If together with other agencies we could reduce the demand, then you reduce the amount of resources needed to police it and treat people, and at the end of the day the dealers don’t have a business.”
The ‘Time to talk? About Drugs Policy’ event is set to take place at the Post Mill Centre in South Normanton and will feature presentations from a range of people including Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon and Dr Liz Austen, Lecturer of Criminology at Sheffield Hallam University.
Academics, health leads and practitioners from across the UK are expected to attend to debate key issues including the need for national drugs policy review and the recent changes in legislation regarding ‘legal highs’.
Commissioner Charles will be joined by Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg who held a similar event last year calling for an evaluation of current drugs policy. The latest conference is aimed at building on this work and prompting further support for a national rethink.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 2,955 drug poisoning deaths (involving both legal and illegal drugs) were registered in 2013 in England and Wales (2,032 male and 923 female deaths).
Mr Charles concluded, saying: “This is the tip of the iceberg. Drugs ruin health, finances, relationships, families, drive crime and violence and have a negative impact on communities. Drugs are still one of the biggest problems in society today and we need to get to grips with it. Just doing the same thing, in the same way, is clearly not working, so let’s think again.”
Media Enquiries: Sallie Blair – 01283 821012 / 07702 541401
Posted on Monday 8th June 2015