Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1060
TUESDAY 22 JANUARY 2002
OBE, MRS MARY
1060. What do you say to the argument, Mr Broughton,
that by adopting such a policy which faces reality, whether one
likes it or not, it does give police the time to deal with forms
of criminality and, to put it bluntly, not waste their time on
dealing with cannabis when people possess cannabis, whether we
like it or not, and I do not like it, I have the same view about
cannabis as the Professor, but, facing the reality of life, the
police can get on and do a job which basically we want them to
do, deal with criminality? What do you say to that?
(Mr Broughton) It is a very strong case, is it not,
a very strong case and that is why we say at the end of our evidence
that that case is a siren call for despair and surrender because
the use of cannabis in some cases is causing despair within individuals'
lives and within families.
1061. I would like to ask Mrs Brett a question
about the direction of government policy and whether you feel
it should go more in the direction of preventative education,
and would you explain your views on the style and content of current
drugs education and whether you feel it is achieving its purpose.
(Mrs Brett) The style of drug education that is around
at the moment and is prevalent in most schools is harm reduction.
Now, harm reduction has its legitimate place. If you have got
a heroin user and they are injecting, you get them to "chase
the dragon", I think, which is less risky for blood-borne
diseases and so on, but to bring it into a school setting where
80 to 90 per cent of children have absolutely no intention of
using drugs is, in my mind, indefensible. In harm reduction literature,
you read things like, "Children will use drugs anyway, let's
be realistic and tell them how to do it safely. They must have
informed choice". Apart from the fact that there is absolutely
no guaranteed safe way to take any drug, including prescription
drugs, the choice is very flawed in three ways. No one can make
decisions or choices without terms of reference, and I have already
said that they are not being told the truth about cannabis. Secondly,
choice sidesteps whether it is right or wrong in the situation,
in other words, is it legal or not legal, right or wrong. Adults
and society can more or less wash their hands of the situation
and relinquish their responsibility and let children make their
own life-critical decisions. Children are not miniature adults,
they are not mature and they cannot think in a grown-up way and
make these life decisions. We do not let them choose to break
the law if they are speeding later in life or even petty pilfering.
We cannot control all that, but we do not say, "Let's let
everyone speed" just because we cannot enforce the law. I
have two examples here of harm reduction literature which you
might find interesting. This is my last copy of this one unfortunately.
This is from Lifeline and David mentioned Lifeline earlier. "How
to survive your parents discovering you are a drug user",
and the first bit of advice to children is "Don't get caught
in the first place". Further down it says, "Try and
stay calm. Try and educate your parents".
1062. Can I ask you what sort of distribution
that leaflet would have? Is it available in schools?
(Mrs Brett) Yes. I was first introduced to Lifeline
when I started being really concerned about this business roughly,
I suppose, about five to ten years ago now. I went to a teacher
training meeting on drugs and I was given Lifeline literature.
When I got home and I looked at it, I was so horrified and I phoned
up the lady who was taking the courseI was new at this
time and rather naiveand I said to her, "Have you
read this?" The cannabis booklet which I had too shows how
a joint is rolled in a step-by-step diagram and I said, "Have
you read this?" and she said, "No, actually I have not".
It is freely available, anyone can get it. I have sent for it
lots of times and there are no restrictions. I have even sent
for a guide on how to inject for heroin users.
1063. Is this the sort of literature which is
used commonly by education authorities?
(Mrs Brett) I cannot speak for all schools obviously,
but I do know that there are schools which use Lifeline literature.
I do not know how many, but that is probably the worst of it.
This one, this is distributed by DrugScope. Now, I know you have
interviewed DrugScope widely and they have sent you a lot of written
evidence. If you open this booklet, which is rather expensive,
it is full of colour pictures and they are on every other page.
I have three spare copies of this which I can give to you. There
is a picture on one of the pages where there are two young chaps
in a field of cannabis wearing silly sort of policemen helmets,
and there are words on it. Now, it is in very small print, but
I am getting old and I can read this and children can and it says,
"Have fun. Take care". What sort of message is that
1064. Entirely the wrong one.
(Mrs Brett) There are very few facts in this and there
are some wrong facts. It says that cannabis is not physically
addictive and in the next sentence they say, "But withdrawal
symptoms have been seen". Well, Baroness Greenfield will
know that if you get withdrawal symptoms, that means there is
physical addiction, so it is very misleading and certainly their
literature is used in a lot of schools.
1065. Thank you. Can you leave those with the
(Mrs Brett) Yes, certainly.
1066. We can let you have them back if needs
(Mrs Brett) No, you can have them.
1067. Can I just check before we move on, is
it broadly your position that zero tolerance is the right approach
to drugs? Does that go for all of you?
(Baroness Greenfield) Yes.
(Mrs Brett) I would love to have zero tolerance. I
know it is not achievable.
(Mr Raynes) I am not quite sure what you mean by zero
tolerance. We have got to be pragmatic and I think in my written
evidence I suggested a methodology for dealing with first-time
users. Giving criminal convictions to first-time users in their
early teens I do not think is
1068. Yes, but as you say in your written evidence,
those are things which can be used in mitigation after you have
established the facts.
(Mr Raynes) That is a different point. That is the
dealing point. I suggest in my written evidence, and I am not
aware of anybody else suggesting anything like this, that we have
a point scoring system and children get caught at an early stage
in preventative education. I believe that the Home Office has
considered something like that, but I have not heard them talk
about it. I believe they have something like that done under the
previous Minister, but I have not heard any real evidence about
that, though I would be surprised if they had not. Zero tolerance,
as you put it, what does zero tolerance mean for a 14-year-old
boy with cannabis?
1069. Well, you say to everybody, "No,
we are not tolerating you having drugs and you will be punished
if you are caught". You can obviously vary the degree of
punishment according to the seriousness of the offence.
(Mr Raynes) My daughter is a schoolteacher and the
point scoring system she came up with actually. I did not know
the Home Office had considered it and she has found children using
cannabis of 14 in her school and some shock tactics have been
used rather along the lines of Prince Charles' shock tactics,
and I think that is very good. I think that is an approach in
that we have got to catch people early.
1070. You see, one of the arguments put forward
by those who take a different view is that by telling youngsters
that all drugs are bad for you, and all drugs are very bad for
you, they end up not believing you or taking you seriously because
they know from their personal experience that there is quite a
variation of effects and they vary from the not very harmful to
the obviously seriously harmful.
(Mr Raynes) We tell them that cigarettes are damaging,
but a lot of young people, particularly girls, smoke. Telling
them is one part of it, but it is a whole life skill education
system in preparing them to resist drugs, and a lot of children
do resist drugs.
(Baroness Greenfield) Again we come up against this
murky distinction between what is harmful and "I feel okay".
Now, the issue is that it could be argued that it is even more
pernicious than something that is going to kill you outright or
has a direct deleterious effect on your health because you will
carry on taking it and it could gradually be changing your mindset,
you might get amotivational syndrome and so on, so in the long
1071. Are you saying that all drugs are equally
(Baroness Greenfield) No, because harmful is a multi-dimensional
concept. You can mean harmful to your physical health, harmful
acutely or harmful to your lifestyle, and of course those different
drugs would score differently.
1072. Do you think we should say to young people,
and I think you do, "These are the facts and at the end you
must make your own judgment about them. I am presenting you with
(Baroness Greenfield) What I say is, "I am not
going to tell you, `Don't take drugs. Just say no'" because
I know that is not the kind of persuasive argument that is going
to achieve an end, but, on the other hand, if you cannot have
a society where we decide whether or not we are going to murder
and we do not need policing or whether or not we are going to
steal, clearly we live in the imperfect world where we have to
have some kind of rules and so on. I think what we have to tell
young people is that when they take drugs, they are tampering
with the most special part of their bodies and that is their brains
and their minds over conceivably the long term. There is even
evidence of long-term damage after one has given up smoking cannabis,
and I think this is a very serious and big worry, not so much
that you might die that night, but more that you could be under-performing
and unfulfilled 30, 40 years on.
1073. If you are taking it regularly over a
period of years
(Baroness Greenfield) Well, I can quote to you that
in the particular study I am looking at, some people have been
using it for nine years and abstained from between three to six
months and they were compared with long-term users of ten years
or more and short-term users of three years and in all cases where
they had been smoking 10 to 19 days a month, all of them, irrespective
of the length, showed potential impairments compared to the controls.
Now, would you want your children to be so disadvantaged?
1074. Thank you. Mr Broughton, is it the Police
Federation's position that zero tolerance is the best approach?
(Mr Broughton) I wish it was that simple. The input
from politicians in this debate has been really quite interesting.
We heard Ann Widdecombe's contribution some time ago in relation
to cannabis which was quite an interesting reaction. The statements
from the Home Office, and your inquiry itself I think are causing
problems in relation to policing and in a policing sense our responsibility
is to enforce the law and that is obviously the responsibility.
If the law is unclear or confused, then policing that problem
becomes much more difficult. I listened to the Mayor of London
just yesterday live on BBC News when he said that the increasing
number of police officers will, at his suggestion, indulge in
zero tolerance and enforce all offences, and I assume he means
cannabis as well, or does he? I am not clear on that because I
understood the Mayor of London supported what was going on in
Lambeth. There is a lack of clarity at the moment in policing
terms about exactly what is the drug enforcement policy and it
needs to be cleared up pretty quickly because if there is a lack
of clarity and if there is confusion in relation to what police
officers are doing, what the Crown Prosecution Service are doing
in terms of prosecution and what the courts are doing, then it
will be exploited. It will be exploited by ruthless people who
are trading in drugs. It would also cause great confusion and
harm, I think, to young people because the signals and messages
that are going out at the moment are, I would suggest, that cannabis
is okay, and if cannabis is okay, then there is going to be an
increased use of cannabis. Do I agree with zero tolerance? If
zero tolerance means that we enforce the law, that is my job and
that is the job of police officers to enforce the law. It is a
matter for politicians to change the law when it is required.
1075. So you seek clarity?
(Mr Broughton) Yes, I understand perfectly what the
role of the police is, to enforce the law, which is zero tolerance.
1076. I am going to keep pursuing a little bit
this point with perhaps in particular the police. In terms of
reclassification of cannabis from B to C, is it the view of the
Police Federation that that was a bad thing which sent the wrong
(Mr Broughton) I think those of us that understand
exactly how cannabis enforcement has moved in, say, the last five
to ten years understand exactly why the Home Secretary suggested
1077. Do the Police Federation think it is a
good thing or a bad thing? It is for all of us to see and we have
all got to make up our minds what we think about it. Do you think
it is a good thing or a bad thing?
(Mr Broughton) I think the signal was that cannabis
is okay. I think that signal was a bad signal. In terms of whether
that is working and whether that actually in a practical sense
is a successful change of policy, I think the jury is still out
for us and that is why I am particularly keen on knowing exactly
what a couple of hundred police officers in south London in this
questionnaire are going to say about that because the Police Federation's
role in this is to understand exactly what the practitioner is
saying, so the jury is still out. What I am saying clearly is
that we think that the signals which were sent out both to young
people, to education and to wider society was that cannabis is
okay and that signal, I think, was the wrong signal at the wrong
1078. Do you not think there is a danger of
hypocrisy on the part of the police here? Your submission says,
". . . the police have been operating a reasonable approach.
This recognises the reality of the current situation . . ."
Have you not been sending a signal to young people about cannabis
by the way that you have been policing by consent?
(Mr Broughton) Exactly right and it has been one of
the most controversial policies within the police service. For
instance, the current policy of caution for personal use is a
London issue, it is not reflected in some of the northern cities
because some of the northern cities are still prosecuting for
personal use, and if there is a great debate within the police
service about the rights and wrongs of a particular policy, there
is not uniformity.
1079. Do you think they should prosecute? Do
you think that the police should arrest and seek prosecution for
personal use of cannabis?
(Mr Broughton) I think our job is to enforce the law
and it is illegal at the moment, so that is our job. Our job is
to arrest and place those matters before the CPS.