Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda


Section 8 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as amended by the Police and Criminal Justice Act 2001

  This submission has been written by the Inclusion Project at Release, which works with non-drug specific service providers and seeks to enable such organisations to work effectively and inclusively with people who use drugs. This has included work with schools, NHS Trusts, Social Service teams, advice services and housing and homeless services.

  Over the past three years, a key area of our work has been to help housing organisations work within the legal boundaries of the Misuse of Drugs Act. We have offered information, training, consultancy and policy development to over 1,000 organisations. A significant concern expressed by these agencies has been Section 8 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, and the obligations that this Section imposes on a range of service providers.

  Evidence submitted below is based on our work with numerous provider organisations, policy makers and Drug Action Teams.

      1.  Section 8 acts to discourage some service providers offering services to drug users. Drug users are consequently routinely excluded from provision, evicted from accommodation and many organisations are reluctant to work with ongoing drug users.

      2.  Most organisations are able to work effectively within Clauses 8a and 8b of the Section; Clause 8c is largely obsolete.

      3.  Clause 8d however creates the most significant obstacles to organisations working with ongoing drug users.

      4.  Clause 8d is currently being amended. Prior to May 2001 the clause obligated agencies to prevent cannabis being smoked on premises. This has resulted in numerous people, primarily young people, being barred from housing and similar provision, exacerbating social exclusion.

      5.  While the reclassifying or rescheduling of cannabis would bring other merits this would still leave organisations obliged to prevent the use of cannabis on premises; hence there is still a need to review Section 8 of the MDA.

      6.  Section 8d was recently amended under the Police and Criminal Justice Act 2001, although the implementation of the amendment is awaiting Home Office guidance on its application, which will be followed by Commencement Order.

      7.  The amendment would create even more substantial obstacles for agencies. It makes the aim of achieving an inclusive society more difficult. Strategies such as the Rough Sleepers Strategy and Supporting People will find effective work with on-going drug users greatly hampered by this amendment.

      8.  There is a recognition that drug users are more likely to enter treatment, and achieve a successful outcome, when in secure and safe accommodation. Following the implementation of the amendment, organisations willing to work with homeless drug users, the most vulnerable drug using population, are likely to be working illegally if they continue to house ongoing drug users.

      9.  The obligation to prevent use taking place on premises will increase levels of drug use in public places; housing providers currently tolerating use on premises and addressing the needs of these drug users will not be able to provide such provision.

    10.  Potentially beneficial provision developing evidence-based practice, such as Safer injecting rooms as piloted in Germany, Holland, Switzerland and Australia would be impossible under the amendment.

    11.  The amendment will discourage the provision of sharps disposal bins in housing and other provision; this undermines the public health strategy of facilitating the safe disposal of injecting equipment.

    12.  The amendment to Section 8 has never been discussed in the Lower House, by the Home Affairs Select Committee or by the ACMD. We would respectfully suggest that these bodies review this section of the MDA, and would in the least support the revision of this in line with the recommendations of the Police Foundation Report.

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Prepared 20 December 2001