Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1039
TUESDAY 22 JANUARY 2002
OBE, MRS MARY
1039. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and
welcome. As I think you all know, this is the latest in a large
number of oral evidence sessions we have held in relation to our
inquiry into the Government's drugs policy. We have received the
best part of 200 submissions, many of them flatly contradictory,
and we are attempting to pick our way through those with the help
of our witnesses. Mr Broughton we know well, but the other members
of the panel, we do not. Can I just ask you to say for the record
who you are and whom you represent.
(Baroness Greenfield) I am Susan Greenfield, Professor
of Pharmacology at Oxford University and Director of the Royal
1040. And you have got to leave early, is that
(Baroness Greenfield) Sadly, I have to leave at half
1041. Mrs Brett?
(Mrs Brett) I am a biology teacher and head of health
education at Dr Challoner's Grammar
School in Amersham, which is a large state grammar
school for boys.
1042. How did you come to take an interest in
the Government's drugs policy?
(Mrs Brett) Well, I am responsible for health education
in the school and that obviously includes drugs education. Just
over the years that I have done this, I have got more and more
involved in finding out the scientific evidence.
1043. And Mr Raynes?
(Mr Raynes) I am a retired Assistant Chief Investigation
Officer from Customs & Excise, so I did 37 years mostly concerned
with drugs enforcement, so if there is an area of expertise I
have, it is on the supply side. I have become engaged with the
National Drug Prevention Alliance. They approached me to join
their Executive Council and I have done that. The reason I did
that was, having spent a lifetime thinking about it, I am convinced
that demand reduction is the main way which we have to deal with
the drugs issue and I do not think enough has been done about
1044. So you were in the front-line in trying
to address the problem of drugs?
(Mr Raynes) Yes, most of my working life.
1045. Up until when?
(Mr Raynes) I retired the year before last, so I have
been retired for about 18/19 months.
1046. And up until that time you were?
(Mr Raynes) I was Assistant Chief Investigation Officer
finally in Customs, but I have been through the mill in every
area of Customs' activity with 25 years or so in investigations.
1047. Can you tell us about the National Drug
(Mr Raynes) Yes, it is a bit of a fraud my being here
as my expertise is in enforcement in particularly heroin, but
the Director is Peter Stoker and he cannot be here as he is in
America, so you may ask me questions about prevention, but that
is not my area of expertise. There are some papers before you
which I have given this morning which may help. If you ask me
a question about prevention which I cannot answer, perhaps we
could reply in writing. The National Drug Prevention Alliance
is an alliance; it does not do work itself or very little work,
but it is an alliance of interested parties and it is a constituency,
not a membership group, but a constituency of about 10 million
people, parents, teachers, et cetera.
1048. Rather a large claim.
(Mr Raynes) It is and that is what I have been told
to say by Peter. The Parent Teacher Associations are aligned with
the NDPA. It does a lot of good work; it gives a lot of advice
to various areas of government and it tries to rebut a lot of
the wilder claims about drugs, so bear with me if I do not know
1049. How is it funded?
(Mr Raynes) It has been funded by the National Lottery
Charities Board and various other charities. We struggle frankly
and the prevention side of the work in the drugs field does struggle
and perhaps we will get into that.
Chairman: Thank you. Can we start with some
questions about the existing drugs policy and whether it works
1050. How should we measure the success of the
drugs policy and, in particular, what is the more important target
of drugs policy, the overall prevalence or the harm caused by
(Mr Raynes) I have given you separate written evidence
in my own right and in that I talk about the prevalence of drugs.
Less than 5 per cent of the population use drugs for a lifetime
and one of my measures is the prevalence of lifetime use of drugs.
We know a lot of people experiment with drugs, but lots of people
experiment with cigarettes and that is how I measure success:
is society full of people taking drugs? Actually it is not. The
impression you get from some of the witnesses you have had is
that it is, but it is not in fact.
1051. So can you go a little bit deeper on the
success of the drugs policy or not?
(Mr Raynes) The current drugs policy, the original
strategy as devised a couple of years ago, in our view and the
NDPA's view was a very good document. It has been undermined by
several things which have happened, and not least David Blunkett's
statement about cannabis has undermined it, the Police Foundation's
report has undermined it and, quite honestly, I warn you against
this in my written evidence, that what the Committee says is capable
of undermining it because the signals which are given out are
very important to young people.
(Baroness Greenfield) I am interested in your distinction
between prevalence and harm. I think this is a very important
distinction and perhaps one which we could explore a bit now.
My concern, and I am restricting my comments to the actions of
drugs on the brain, it is not so much that a drug will necessarily
kill you or even cause you to go into a hospital or a mental hospital,
which you might define as harm, but more that it might change
your mindset, your attitude to life. Now, you might not perceive
that as harmful, but it could be perceived as harmful if you are
performing less well than you would have done or if you are fulfilling
yourself less well than you would have done, so I think we have
to be very cautious in drawing what might seem like a very clear
distinction because I would like to argue at some stage, if the
questions so go, that for an individual the harm might be much
more subliminal than you think.
1052. We have had witnesses who have suggested
that we ought to be concentrating more on preventing harm than
prevalence. Would you like to comment on that?
(Baroness Greenfield) Well, I think it is a very grey
area where one becomes the other.
1053. Mr Raynes, in your evidence you have suggested
that the current drugs policy is "containing matters".
What evidence have you got to that effect?
(Mr Raynes) When I retired, I thought that the matter
was contained. I did not agree with the policy for Customs not
to work on cannabis and that is in my written evidence. I thought
that was the first step in undermining the government strategy.
I do not think that the Committee that decided that took a holistic
view of the whole position in the UK, considering the interaction
between the taking of one drug and the taking of another. The
first drug is tobacco to me and the second one is alcohol, so
I think it is a whole holistic view of substance misuse which
I like to coin. Sorry, I lost my track then.
1054. What evidence is there that the drugs
policy is "containing matters"?
(Mr Raynes) I think it was containing it then, but
I do not think it is now. I think as a result of that change on
cannabis and subsequently the changes even since David Blunkett
made his announcement to you, things are dramatically changing
and these signals are damaging the whole Government's drug effort.
I think it has been terribly damaging. The Police Foundation report
in itself, and it has nothing to do with the police of course,
but it apparently does and the public and the media have played
1055. Do you all agree with that statement?
(Mr Broughton) There is anecdotal evidence in south
London that the change in the procedures at this stage on cannabis
is encouraging more people to come into that area and more people
to involve themselves with cannabis. There is again anecdotal
evidence that the more serious matters, the crack abusers and
the crack dealers, are becoming more visible and more active.
Now, I use the word carefully, "anecdotal", because
there is all sorts of research going on into what is going on
in south London. There is, for instance, a questionnaire of all
police officers in that area currently being undertaken to find
out exactly what police officers are thinking and what their perceptions
are about the way those procedures are working, but in terms of
containment, I do not think what is the current practice in south
London and Lambeth is reducing the number of people that are either
using cannabis or using other drugs. In fact the reverse seems
to be true. It is true in that police officers are dealing with
more people under the new procedures, dealing with more cases
of cannabis under the new procedures and they are more active
in terms of the way they are dealing with crack users or other
drugs, so one could argue, as I think the Superintendent who gave
evidence to you did, that by focusing on what is considered to
be more important drug matters is more effective. Your question
is the more interesting one, is it containing it or is it improving
the state of the community or the state or the quality of life.
I am not hearing any evidence on that.
(Mrs Brett) I have no very, very up-to-date figures
on children. My main concern is about children as a schoolteacher
and I have no up-to-date figures, but I do believe that the proportion
of children becoming involved with drugs is going down very slightly,
but it is not quickly enough in my mind. There are two reasons
for that and later this morning I would like to expand on these
two reasons. One is that children are not being told the truth
about cannabis at all and, secondly, they are getting the wrong
type of drug education. Most children are getting completely the
wrong type of drug education and I would like to see these points
Chairman: Yes, we are going to come on to that
1056. Lastly, until the recent announcement
then, in general you felt that the Government's policy was basically
right, but are there changes which you would like to see to improve
(Mr Raynes) We spoke about the education system and
the White Paper set out a ten-year strategy to help young people
resist drug misuse in order to achieve their full potential. The
NDPA feel that not enough has gone into that and there were a
lot of mixed messages which have been going out over the last
two years since the strategy, which actually we thought was fine,
was defined to prevent drug-related anti-social and criminal behaviour.
Those two first strands of the strategy, the NDPA does not feel
have been addressed as well as they might and there is a difference
between education and preventive education. Just plain education,
teaching people about drugs, I mentioned in my written submission
to you the Lifeline stuff, and the Lifeline stuff reads as if
the worst thing about using drugs is getting caught. Well, that
is not the worst thing about using drugs and I hope the Committee
will see that.
(Baroness Greenfield) I have spoken to lots of schools
about drugs and I always start off by saying that I am not in
any authority to give moral judgments to them, but I just want
to give them the facts and then I explain how drugs work and how
this might change how your brain is configured and, therefore,
how it might change the kind of person you are. I get very good
feedback from both the parents and the children that this is something
that they actually find convincing and persuasive. Moreover, I
have actually spoken in Brixton Prison where I was invited by
the inmates because they said, "Did you know there is lots
of drug-related crime here? We are interested" and so on
and there again I was amazed that no one had explained to them,
and I got into a very interesting dialogue even at Brixton as
to nature and nurture and how the brain works and so on. I feel
there is a huge need there and if money could be put into just
explaining to people in a very neutral way how drugs work for
them which helps them make a decision at least rather than being
seduced into life, I think that would be a wonderful thing.
1057. Mr Broughton, perhaps I could ask you
arising from what you have stated to my colleague Mrs Dean, are
you in favour of the more relaxed policy being adopted by the
police in the Lambeth area of London?
(Mr Broughton) The answer to that is not clear, as
all the answers to these questions are not clear. The drugs problem
itself is a very complex set of individual problems. I think in
preparing our written evidence and for this meeting here this
morning, we have been trying to talk to as many officers as we
can to try and get a feel for what the practitioner is saying
on the street.
1058. Including police officers in Lambeth?
(Mr Broughton) Yes. The theory of this is fascinating
and we have all been trying to think out of the box and work out
what exactly these radical options are and what they mean in practice.
It is a very sound methodology to go and speak to people that
are actually doing this job and find out what their perceptions
are about the people who are involved and about the practices
and the system. There is a mixed reaction. There initially was
great confusion about what this pilot was doing. It obviously
falls in line with what the Home Secretary has said about the
reclassification from C to B of cannabis and the pilot policy
in Lambeth was about trying to refocus police attention on to
more serious drug cases as we perceive them. The immediate reaction,
interestingly, in the schools, and I spoke to some school liaison
officers, the immediate reaction from headteachers and teaching
staff was that they perceived that there was a decriminalisation
of cannabis taking place in Lambeth and, therefore, it would no
longer be an offence. Well, that was not quite true. The children
themselves I think in that particular area of London, one could,
I think, reasonably say, because that is what people said to me,
understand the cannabis culture in that part of London. There
is a cannabis culture in that part of London and they perceived,
young people perceived that this was decriminalisation of cannabis
and cannabis was okay. Now, that was not the case and there was
a lot of explanation at schools and there needed to be a lot of
explanation to the police officers themselves about how this procedure
was going to work. It was a complex procedure. In some ways it
diverted police time from going to the police station with an
arrest for personal use, but it also caused some bureaucratic
issues about the way they were going to handle it, the way they
were seizing the drugs, the cannabis, and it is fair to say that
there was some confusion and still is some confusion about exactly
what is going on. It is alleged, as I say anecdotally, that there
are more people openly now smoking cannabis in and around the
town centre. A police officer spoke to me the other day and he
said, "A year or so ago you would walk along streets in Lambeth
and people would be hiding from you in relation to cannabis. Now
they are openly smoking cannabis". The issue of attempting
to get a grip of the cocaine trading that is going on in that
area is a focus and some are saying that that is confusing between
those that are using and dealing in cannabis and those that are
using and dealing in cocaine. So I cannot specifically say to
you that we, the Police Federation, support that pilot at the
moment. We are very interested in what I said earlier, that every
police officer in that area is being asked a series of questions,
and I think a consultancy company is assisting local commanders,
to really test out exactly how these procedures are working and
I think all of us should be prepared to listen to those practitioners
in the field and find out whether this is a good idea or a bad
idea, is it working in practice, and, I think more importantly,
is the signal that it sends a good or a bad signal. My personal
view and I think the view of many is, as David Raynes said, that
the signal which has been sent in relation to that pilot and in
the reclassification from B to C of cannabis is that cannabis
is okay, and cannabis is certainly not okay. The evidence is pretty
conclusive that it is a major problem.
1059. That is a very considerate answer and
a thoughtful one indeed. You see, we got the impression, and I
say "we", at least I got the impression, and quite likely
so did my colleagues around the table as well, that when we heard
evidence from a very senior police officer who operates in the
Lambeth area that it was your members, rank-and-file police officers,
who considered that this was a right policy simply because it
faced the reality of the situation. Indeed in your own written
evidence to us, you say, in reference to what has been happening,
"This recognises the reality of the current situation and
takes note of the more relaxed attitudes of a significant section
of the population".
(Mr Broughton) What I am referring to there is what
is the current police practice prior to the Lambeth pilot where
cannabis personal use was not going to court basically. It was
an offence one was arrested for and probably would be cautioned
for. Some five or ten years ago that was not the case, so the
police service, in the spirit of policing by consent, recognised
that society perhaps was not taking personal use of cannabis as
seriously as it did some years before, so what was happening was
that the Crown Prosecution Service and the police were basically
agreeing to caution for personal use. What the south London pilot
has done is to move really dramatically beyond that and not to
arrest people for possession of cannabis, but basically to seek
a name and address and, first of all, to reduce the power of arrest
and to reduce the punishment that is available under that category,
which again was a move forward from the position of the police
service and the CPS exercising the right to caution in certain
offences of personal use, low quantities.