Home Office rejects decriminalising possession of drugs for personal use
Official advisory body says better to educate and apply civil sanctions rather than fine or imprison users
The Home Office has quickly rejected a call from the government's official drug advisers to decriminalise the personal possession of all illegal drugs, including heroin and cocaine.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has said it would be better if the tens of thousands of people caught with illicit drugs were sent on drug education and awareness courses rather than punished with fines and other penalties, up to imprisonment.
But the Home Office has rejected the advice, a spokesman saying on Friday: "We have no intention of liberalising our drugs laws. Drugs are illegal because they are harmful – they destroy lives and cause untold misery to families and communities.
"Those caught in the cycle of dependency must be supported to live drug-free lives, but giving people a green light to possess drugs through decriminalisation is clearly not the answer.
"We are taking action through tough enforcement, both inland and abroad, alongside introducing temporary banning powers and robust treatment programmes that lead people into drug-free recovery."
The ACMD suggested that it would save the police, courts, probation and prison services the millions of pounds currently spent dealing with drug users and enable them to be assessed for treatment rather than given criminal records.
The drug advisers' recommendation was made in evidence this year to a consultation by the Sentencing Council on new guidelines on how the courts should deal with drug offences.
"For people found to be in possession of (any) drug for personal use (and in involved in no other criminal offences), they should not be processed through the criminal justice system but instead diverted into drug education/awareness courses," the ACMD said.
The advisers suggested that confiscating driving licences and passports may be more effective as civil sanctions than imposing criminal penalties: "Such approaches may be more effective in reducing repeat offending," they said.
The call by the ACMD made earlier this summer echoes the vote by the Liberal Democrat conference to endorse a similar decriminalisation approach to personal possession. Portugal became the first European country in 2001 to replace criminal penalties for possession with administrative fines, similar to parking tickets, combined with treatment and education courses.
Friday, 14 October 2011
Home Office rejects decriminalising possession of drugs for personal use | Society | guardian.co.uk