Examination of witnesses (Questions 1
THURSDAY 8 JUNE 2000
RUNCIMAN, DBE, MR
QPM, MS ANNETTE
and DR BARRIE
1. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome
to this one-off evidence session and to the Independent Inquiry
into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. We are very pleased to see
you, Dame Ruth, and your colleagues. We were hoping to run this
session slightly differently in the sense that we hope we can
have much more of a discussion than a simple exchange of gunfire,
as it were, as we sometimes do; the better to get at things. Perhaps
I might start, Dame Ruth, by just for the record if you could
tell us something about the nature of the Police Foundation and
what earlier recent reports you have done?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) Well, the Director of the Police
Foundation is sitting behind me and perhaps he would be the best
person to tell you that, if that were possible.
2. Could we just have a name, please?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) Dr Barry Irving.
(Dr Irving) The question was that you wanted to know
something about the background of the Foundation?
(Dr Irving) We were formed in 1979 as an organisation
to carry out independent research on policing. We were formed
by and with the support of the Home Office and the Police Service,
but the intention was always that we would be an independent organisation
and that we would raise funds for independent research. About
1989/1990, it was suggested to a number of advisers to the Foundation,
a number of professors of criminology and others that we should
engage in independent inquiries on matters of importance in policing
and the first such inquiry we undertook was on the relevant responsibilities
of the police and this was followed by setting up this present
inquiry under Dame Ruth Runciman, following on from the process
which started with the publication of the ACMD's Report, `Police
and Drug Misuse in the Community'. This was responded to by the
Association of Chief Police Officers in 1995 with a suggestion
that there should be more independent research on the possible
effects of legalisation of cannabis and a thorough going review
of the Misuse of Drugs Act. We take up cudgels on behalf of that
particular mission at the suggestion of Professor Bean who was
a member of the ACMD sub-committee that produced the report and
that led to this particular inquiry. At the same time we have
continued with a programme of independent research on policing
matters which to some extent an aside and parallel to that programme
4. Dame Ruth, can you tell us how you went about
selecting those Members for this inquiry?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) What we did is, we started by
defining the various constituencies and expertise that needed
to be represented. Obviously policing, obviously pharmacology,
obviously education and having defined what kind of expertise
we wanted, we sought guidance. I had the advantage of having been
on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for 20 years, so
I did know who was out there and we took a lot of advice and our
single criterion as well as expertise was that we wanted people
who were open-minded and would bring a fresh perspective and uncluttered
baggage to the inquiry. Of course one obviously had to pick and
choose between people who had very heavy time commitments, etcetera.
But it was the usual kind of process but a bit more than the usual
5. The National Drug Prevention Alliance claims
that 11 people who gave oral evidence and 12 who submitted written
evidence they describe as legalisers/harm reductionists, compared
to one oral and three written pieces of evidence on their sort
of strategy review. You can only invite people to give evidence
and you can only consider the evidence you get, but are you satisfied
that there was enough of a broad range of evidence, or was it
weighted more on one side of the argument than the other?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) I am satisfied that we had a
broad range of evidence and I have to say that I am rather surprised
that there is an equation between legalisers and harm reductionists.
There is a very great difference being a legaliser and a harm
reductionist. I am quite satisfied that the oral evidence that
we soughtthe written evidence of course, in a sense, was
what came to us. We put out a call for evidence and we had to
take what we got, but the oral evidence was carefully chosen to
get as wide a spectrum of experienceabove all, experienceas
6. The objectives of the inquiry suggest that
some of the recommendations for change in the law was expected,
that it was almost inevitable that having reviewed this perhaps
because it had been in place over 30 years that you are almost
bound to recommend some changes. Was this an expectation by any
of those who helped fund this inquiry or did you feel nudged in
a certain direction; that is really what I am getting at?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) No, absolutely not. I think it
is really quite important to put on record how extremely independently
we proceeded and how scrupulous the Police Foundation and all
our funders were to ensure that independence. We felt nudged in
no direction at all.
7. Okay, thanks. As to the three groups of young
people interviewed why was that only done in London and not in
another big city and a rural area?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) I think that is a perfectly fair
question. One of the groups was done in outer London and the young
people who came to that group lived, some of them, beyond that,
beyond London. I think that is a perfectly fair question.
8. But why did it happen? That is what I am
(Dame Ruth Runciman) Time, resources, the opportunities,
etcetera, but in fact the young people we saw, one of them was
from a homeless project, were not on the whole Londoners, almost
9. Perhaps really I am thinking that some evidence
from a rural community would have been useful to you from the
perspective of different routes into drug abuse?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) We took evidence from Howard
Parker who has done a good deal of work, as you know, in many
areas including rural areas among young people in all kinds of
areas. We took very detailed evidence from him.
10. Did you speak to Keith Hellawell in the
course of the inquiry?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) No. We spoke privately to Keith
11. Why did he not give you formal evidence?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) I think you must ask him that
12. Okay. You would have been happy to
(Dame Ruth Runciman) We invited him. We would have
13. Okay, fine. Just a couple of other questions
if I may please? You have not published the MORI poll that you
commissioned. Was there a reason for that?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) No and we would liked to have
published it. It is actually a question of resources. It is available
to anybody who requires it, but it really is a resource issue.
14. And during the course of the inquiry you
lost two of its Members, Mr Murray, a solicitor and Mrs Chesney,
Chief Executive of Cranstoun Drug Service. They resigned before
the Report was finished?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) And Mr Mike Trace, who is now
the Deputy Drug Czar.
15. Yes, that is right?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) They both resigned for personal
reasons. Mrs Chesney took a new job which made it very difficult
for her and Mr Murray's wife was ill.
16. The last question I want to ask before I
come to Mr Malins, were you surprised that the Government was
so instantly dismissive of your Report, if I interpret that right?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) I wish I could say I was surprised.
I was not wholly surprised. Of course I was disappointed. What
was more surprising, if I may say so, and particularly pleasing
was the extraordinarily fair wind we got from the press right
across the political spectrum in terms of their call for a mature
and rationalas the Daily Mail put itpublic
debate. So that was the surprise, the Government's response was
not, although the Home Secretary assures us that he is considering
it seriously and has set up a small group under Mr Hellawell to
Chairman: Right. Thank you. Mr Malins?
17. Just a quick question on the make-up of
the group. You will know that in the Courts those who are responsible
for dealing with cases involving drugs in some way are principally
the Stipendiary Magistrates Association and the Lay Magistrates
Association. Did either of those groups give evidence to you?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) Not oral evidence. I cannot actually
remember. I do not think they did as such and certainly they did
18. May I suggest that they did not, because
they are not listed as having given evidence. Would you agree
(Dame Ruth Runciman) Yes.
19. Did any stipendiary magistrate or metropolitan
stipendiary magistrate or lay justice give evidence to you personally?
(Dame Ruth Runciman) No.