Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400 - 419)



  400. One final quick question you may not be able to answer because it is still a pilot. Have you any evidence that the success of your scheme has pushed these dealers out of Lambeth at all?
  (Mr Paddick) No. There is no evidence of any displacement at all. Unfortunately whilst there is still a market in terms of people who want to buy these drugs, who have to have these drugs, there will be the dealers there on the street to supply them.


  401. Would the same policies you are pursuing on cannabis work if it was applied to ecstasy?
  (Mr Paddick) Again, it is very difficult. We get the slippery slope argument again. Whilst nobody, as far as I know, has died from one encounter with cannabis, people have died from one encounter with ecstasy, it is a very emotive subject and so forth. If I felt that my officers were going into nightclubs looking for people who were in possession of ecstasy then I would say to them, and I would say publicly, that they are wasting valuable police resources.

  402. Broadly the answer is yes, confiscation rather than prosecution?
  (Mr Paddick) Ecstasy, as I said, my understanding is a more dangerous drug in that some people have a reaction to it and end up dying.

  403. Your answer is still yes because there are even more dangerous drugs waiting in the wings you would prefer to concentrate on?
  (Mr Paddick) What I would say is that the amount of time that my police officers spend dealing with ecstasy and tied up in the custody suite and so forth is very small, therefore a radical change of the nature that I have introduced regarding cannabis is not justified.

  404. It is very small because you are already pursuing the same policy towards ecstasy as you are pursuing towards cannabis in practice?
  (Mr Paddick) There is no policy that is published or articulated by me that says to my officers that I am not interested in them going out and arresting people for possession of ecstasy. Officers make up their own mind. They have absolute discretion under the law.

  405. You have said you would be disappointed if they were wasting, I do not necessarily say wasting their time but spending a lot of time searching the clubs and pubs of Lambeth when there are more important things to do?
  (Mr Paddick) Absolutely. The only difference is this is the first time I have publicly said that. I have never said it to my officers, I have never said it to the media, I have never said it to anybody before. I would say there are far more important things which cause real harm to the community in the way that ecstasy does not cause real harm to the community in Lambeth at this time.

  406. And heroin. You heard the question at the end about shooting galleries?
  (Mr Paddick) Yes.

  407. For instance, licensed premises where heroin could be taken without fear of arrest. What would you say to that?
  (Mr Paddick) I would be very nervous about it. I would rather seek to get heroin addicts into formal treatment than I would to make it easier for them to continue with their chaotic drug use. It is all very well giving them somewhere safe in which they can inject but that does not stop them going out mugging people, breaking into people's property, in order to get the money to pay for what they are then injecting.

  408. That brings us very nicely to Mr Wilkinson. Mr Wilkinson majors, if I may put it like that, on heroin, do you not?
  (Mr Wilkinson) This year, Chairman, yes.

  409. You were the Chief Constable of Gwent. What got you interested in drugs policy?
  (Mr Wilkinson) I suppose I have dealt with drugs in every rank in one way or another, either arresting drug users as a constable or dealing with drugs policy and more major operations in chief officer rank. It became increasingly clear to me—and it was a view I expressed privately before retirement—that the way that we manage the drugs problem increases crime, fails to make any impact on the drugs business which grows every year—and grew very quickly in the 1990s—so that we, by dint of having a generally prohibitory problem, have the worst drug problem in Europe, the worst heroin problem in the Western world but also the highest level of cannabis use in Europe and even now, with the latest set of the EMCDDA figures, the highest level of cocaine use in Western Europe. It was clear to me that the prohibition policy was a terrible failure. It is because all the police do, as Brian Paddick has just described, is deal with the end of the market. Of course it is not all we do, there are people who are deliberately targeted at the business end of it but their effectiveness is extremely limited. The police cannot control a business. If you control the supply of alcohol you do it using Customs and Excise, Inland Revenue, local magistrates, planning permission for premises and the police and Health and Safety and just about all the regulatory agencies you can think of are responsible for some part of the process or other. The idea that the police alone can make any impact on a business, on a trade of this scale, we know it is many billions of pounds a year, is and always has been unrealistic. This is why the war on drugs is such a bad phrase.

  410. What do you say to those such as the spokesperson for ACPO, who we heard earlier, who said "Ah, yes, but all these figures show we have the worst in Europe which date from when we did not have a strategy. We have now got a strategy which is imperfect but it has been set in place and we should give it a whirl before we do anything else about it".
  (Mr Wilkinson) The strategy had four main outcome objectives in 1998 and all four of those have moved in the opposite direction to the one the strategy said it would over the succeeding four years. There was not a single year in the 1990s when one could be hopeful about the progress of the drugs problem in this country. I see absolutely no rational basis for thinking that might be different in the next three years.

  411. Why do you think that ACPO doubts? You know a lot of chief constables, I imagine?
  (Mr Wilkinson) I am very sympathetic to the problems of the person required to present ACPO's position today. It is not the job of chief police officers to campaign to change the criminal law, it is their job to enforce the criminal law. When I was a chief constable I never spoke publicly about the views that I held, even though, as you can tell, I held them and hold them quite strongly. Now that I am retired I am in a position of being able to do that and I am by no means alone in that.

  412. Tell us what you would do in relation to heroin? Give us a brief summary of the changes you would make, what you would advise this Committee to recommend in relation to heroin.
  (Mr Wilkinson) Adopt a system which consists of three parts. There is still some value in maintaining methadone prescription, even though it is used for less than ten per cent of heroin addicts in this country and even though it is both much more dangerous than heroin in terms of fatalities and more addictive in terms of length of time it takes people to get off it. It does help some people overcome their psychological addiction and then overcome the physical addiction in two stages, so I would keep that but actually buprenorphine is safer and I hope will be introduced instead of methadone and will result in fewer deaths. The second is better residential detoxification facilities. It is a constant complaint, in South Wales very strongly but in other parts of the country too, that when people want to come off there are no readily available facilities for them. As a result they hang around for a bit in this mood of wanting to come off and then they go back, use the drugs again and by the time some place is available to them they are not in a mood to be interested. We really do need to have much more substantial support in that way. Financially I think that a good case can be made for it. The reason I say that is because the Swiss, who use those two elements, also use their third element of prescribing heroin through clinics where the heroin is consumed on the premises so the dangers of leakage are minimised, the dangers of over-prescription are almost entirely removed and there are all the health benefits of doing it that way. I think they have found, in the usual Swiss precision, that per patient day in those clinics they save 96 Swiss francs, £10,000 a year per patient. Those savings are in the criminal justice system because those people are no longer committing crime at the rate that we know many heroin users do to fund their habits. I would say that there are three parts to the package. I would also say in relation to heroin that you will not drive out the illegal market because you cannot prescribe heroin to young people who want to try it. There will be a continuing illegal market in heroin, I am afraid.

  413. Do you agree that there will be a big fall in drug related crime?
  (Mr Wilkinson) It cannot be otherwise. Somebody earlier said we have not got enough data but actually over the last five years we have gained an enormous amount of fresh data. NTORS was mentioned earlier, the National Treatment Outcome Research Study, but the NEW-ADAM data, Home Office sponsored, is enormously powerful. They have come to the conclusion, as somebody mentioned earlier, £16,500 is spent by heroin addicts per year on their habits and the average heroin addict arrested admits to 432 offences in the previous 12 months compared to an average of 46 for people who do not use either heroin or crack cocaine. There is very good evidence from the Widnes experiment. There is evidence from the United States, which we copied the NEW-ADAM research from, so there is directly comparable research in the United States, that about one-third of property crime is caused by these people who are stealing to feed their habits. You supply those people with that drug without the necessity to steal and that crime should evaporate.

  414. What do you say to the argument that these people lead chaotic lifestyles anyway and they were probably criminals before they got on to heroin and, therefore, their behaviour is not likely to be affected?
  (Mr Wilkinson) There are a lot of prejudices and assumptions around this area. It is really necessary to look at the findings out of NEW-ADAM where they conclude—

  415. From where?
  (Mr Wilkinson) From the NEW-ADAM, the New England and Wales Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring.

  416. Thank you, that was a very brave attempt. This is an area riven with acronyms.
  (Mr Wilkinson) Trevor Bennett at the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge, funded by the Home Office, all available on the Home Office website.

  417. What does he say, in a nutshell?
  (Mr Wilkinson) I have almost forgotten the question now.

  418. What do you say to those who say that heroin addicts lead chaotic lifestyles and were probably criminals before they started using?
  (Mr Wilkinson) Some of them had previous convictions, others did not. There is a group of them for whom their heroin use started before they were arrested for any crime. It is the facts that are important here. There are people like that. Certainly it is the case that some of the people who take up heroin use are people who have already committed crimes but after they start using heroin and lose their jobs they commit a lot more crimes, and that is a firm conclusion of the NEW-ADAM research.

  419. What do you say to the argument that legalisation would lead to an increase in drug users and a consequential rise in some crimes, which comes from the Police Federation survey?
  (Mr Wilkinson) Again, broad statements are made, are they not, without any evidential basis. One has to distinguish between different drugs. In this country we have the most rampant heroin problem in the Western World. We also have the most prohibitory regime in Europe, perhaps with the exception of Sweden which does not have a problem of any size. It seems clear that the two are not linked because in Switzerland and in the Netherlands, where they prescribe heroin, and the Netherlands have done for many years, in Switzerland it has been in a trial for the last nine years, heroin use has declined in the same period and the average age of the heroin addict has increased. In Britain heroin use is increasing and the average age is getting younger. Indeed, the EMCDDA have said heroin use is declining in Europe except for the United Kingdom. We are the people who got it wrong. It is a blanket approach of prohibition and only methadone that has largely done it.

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