Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda


Submitted by Mrs D Kay Roberts

  1.  I am grateful for the opportunity to submit written evidence to the first major enquiry of the new Parliament that is reviewing the Government's drugs policy: is it working?

  2.  Does existing drugs policy work?

    —  To a certain extent yes. The increased funding that has been made available to address the four pillars of the strategy are to be welcomed. However, as noted by Lady Runciman in the Police Foundation Report, there continue to be problems relating to legislation that have not been addressed. Thirty years have passed since the Misuse of Drugs Act came into force. There is an urgent need for amendments and changes to be made so that the Act reflects 21st century practice and experience.

    —  Particular areas of concern are: Section 9A and drug paraphernalia. There is increasing evidence that Hepatitis C transmission could be reduced if needle exchanges were able to supply, filters, citric acid, water for injections, swabs etc. The provision of clean, small sachets of citric acid together with advice on safe use would contribute to the reduction of injection-related injuries.

    —  The own handwriting requirements for prescribers and the need for pharmacists to record every single daily supply of methadone and other Controlled Drugs could be repealed as it is now possible for prescriptions to be computer generated and for pharmacists to hold computer records of medication supplies. Some pharmacists are currently recording details of over 100 daily instalments each day, by hand in their CD Register.

    —  The current legislation makes it difficult for more innovative ways to be explored for the provision of services. One of the Government's targets is to increase the number of drug users in contact with services and in treatment. This can only be achieved if the services are able to cope with these increases.

  3.  What would be the effect of de-criminalisation on (a) the availability of, and demand for, drugs (b) drug-related deaths?

    —  In my opinion de-criminalisation would have a positive impact on the incidence of drug-related deaths. Fear of arrest/prosecution, often results in the emergency services not being called to in the case of overdose. I do not believe that criminalising the users of drugs has any beneficial effect whatsoever. Penalties for drug trafficking/dealing etc. are another matter entirely and should remain a criminal offence.

    —  As for availability and demand, there does appear to be a link between these and incarceration in prison. If drug users were treated in the community rather than being given custodial sentences, there may indeed be a reduction in demand.

  4.  Is de-criminalisation desirable?

    —  I agree that this should be the case for trafficking or supply. It is difficult enough for most drug users to become re-integrated into society without having a criminal record as well. Too often the initial cause of drug use is deprivation, poor housing, unemployment etc. Having a criminal record just adds to the problems and solves nothing. Treatment and assistance in dealing with education, work and housing relationships would be far more beneficial.

September 2001

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