Submitted by the Association of Chief
Police Officers (ACPO)
1.1 The introduction of the ten-year strategy
has provided a time-framed agenda with a life-span which acknowledges
that government understands the tackling of the drugs problem
as being a long-term investment of multi-agency and cross government
departmental effort. The ACPO also welcomes the role of an Anti-Drugs
Co-ordinator as it is felt that such a role offers the strategic
overview and facilitative function, which is so important in channelling
the energy of each partner towards the aims of the strategy. In
short, the framework provided by the strategy, driven by government,
its Co-ordinator and all the partners is fully endorsed by the
ACPO and seen as a sensible and pragmatic approach.
1.2 Three years on, it is our view that
the main thrust of the strategy remains appropriate and relevant
but there is a pressing need to refine some aspects.
2. DOES EXISTING
2.1 If we judge whether the existing drugs
policy is working by measurable reductions in the number of people
who use drugs, the number who die or suffer harm as a result,
the supply of drugs, the amount of crime committed to get money
to buy drugs and the organised criminality involved in transporting
and supplying drugs, then we have to say that the results are
not coming through. This could either be because the policy is
flawed or because the policy is right but not enough co-ordinated
effort is being put into it. The view of the ACPO is that it is
the latter. The realignment of Drug Action Teams with local authority
boundaries has been helpful in facilitating local partnership
activity and creating a better fit with the Crime and Disorder
Community Safety Agenda.
There are indications that some government
departments and agencies find it difficult to maintain their commitment
due to competing priorities
Ideally, the extent to which drugs
policy is working would be determined through the robust evaluation
of activity driven by the strategythis research is incomplete
62 per cent of the United Kingdom
drugs funding is spent on enforcement (Government Drugs Strategy
1998). This may represent a disproportionate distribution of resources.
The absence of any baseline data
means that the targets set in the strategy were unrealistic and
are now demoralising
The objectives lack credibility,
which deters agencies from channelling their efforts towards targets
that they know are impossible to achieve
In the case of the police service,
there is an additional frustration in that Home Office performance
indicators do not measure outcomes and are open to manipulation
The strategy sets objectives and
targets which touch most departments. However, their standing
when compared with other performance measures such as reducing
class sizes or waiting times for medical operations means that
the drugs agenda can have a lower priority
Law enforcement agencies are the
only agencies that have specific drugs performance indicators
in addition to those contained in the strategy
The imbalance in funding between
prevention and enforcement could mean that public health and other
social problems become neglected.
2.4 Conclusion and Recommendations
The review and monitoring of progress within
the strategy requires urgent attention if outcomes are to be properly
evaluated to establish whether drugs policy is working and the
financial and other resource investment is achieving a satisfactory
The relative priority of the drugs strategy
compared with other government priorities needs re-stating.
There is a need to create a more robust
strategic and financial framework to achieve better joined-up
working, information exchange and shared funding. This could be
achieved through the setting of joint agency objectives and shared
funding streams where outcomes are measured against targets set
from researched baselines.
3.1 We support
The prevention strategy that centres
on DTTOs, CARATs and Arrest Referral
The provision of government funding
to facilitate the setting up of arrest referral schemes across
The introduction of the National
Treatment Agency (NTA).
We do not support
The lack of current research to demonstrate
the effectiveness of arrest referral and mapping of how treatment
demand is being met across the country
The lack of new money to fund the
prevention strategy prior to the reporting of the evaluation research.
The lack of empirical research following
the national rollout could hamper further development of arrest
Demand continues to outstrip the
availability of treatment servicesa position which is likely
to be compounded further following the introduction of drug testing
of arrestees where research indicates the client base is likely
to be increased significantly.
There is inadequate service provision
for offenders sentenced to less than 12 months and those on release
from prison on CARAT schemes. Without housing, education and employment
support they are at risk of re-offending when they return to the
environment that arguably contributed to their original sentencing
and drug misuse problem.
Accessibility to treatment for young
people and clients from ethnic minority groups remains difficult.
3.3 Conclusion and Recommendations
The prevention initiatives within the strategy
are in danger of failing unless robust evaluations are conducted
and adequate funding is directed over the short to mid term. Without
empirical evidence, which demonstrates the benefits being achieved,
agencies will be reluctant to direct funding. Therefore, government
need to continue the funding of these initiatives at least until
the publication of research findings when the evidence will be
available to inform future decision making. The availability and
accessibility of treatment needs urgent review by the NTA.
4.1 The ACPO remains committed to playing
a significant role in the delivery of drug education in schools
and to parents and carers. Linking into Youth Offending Teams
(YOTS) looks promising.
The input to drugs education lacks
a comprehensive and co-ordinated response by each agency and a
clear division of labour.
Desired outcomes are not clearly
defined and where they are there is a lack of research to evaluate
whether outcomes are achieved.
The performance targets are unrealistic
as they contradict the trends illustrated in current research.
Much of the work with YOTS is reactive
and directed to the upper age group of young people, which misses
the opportunities to work with the young and to be proactive with
vulnerable young people.
There is a lack of training provision
for those who work in schools, which leads to varying standards
of input from non-educationalists.
4.2 Conclusion and Recommendations
Drug education remains a critical element of
the strategy. We advocate that each agency should define its input
and desired outcomes. The division of labour should reflect the
expertise and knowledge of available resources of each agency.
This should be evaluated.
5.1 Generally, we are content that the drugs
legislation is adequate. That said there are aspects, which we
feel need bolstering to fill legislative gaps. These issues have
been previously highlighted to the Home Office.
5.2 We respect the arguments advocating
the decriminalisation of cannabis (and indeed other drugs) but
we are clear that we do not support the decriminalisation of cannabis.
Medical experts should set out the consequences and addictive
qualities of cannabis. Our concern is the impact on communities
and criminal justice where the consequences are not fully known.
We are firmly of the view that the status quo should be maintained
especially at a time when all agencies are working hard to achieve
the objectives of the strategy. Effort may be diverted to managing
the shift in policy. Any administrative measures that are introduced
may be seen as a workable alternative but actually could create
new difficulties yet to be fully understood.
5.3 In defending the status quo it is our
contention that the lack of clarity as to what is meant by decriminalisation
is compounding an already uncertain situation where the likely
effects are not known. Our primary aim is to provide reassurance
to the public and focus on Class "A" drugs. Whilst it
could be argued that decriminalisation may enable greater focus
on Class "A" drugs that does not necessarily follow
as other policing problems may emerge. Certainly the experience
in Holland supports that view.
5.4 In addition to this primary argument
the ACPO feels that the United Kingdom could become a magnet for
drug tourists, which has the potential for community degeneration,
which could be a recipe for increases in crime. It cannot be assumed
that legitimate possession would not eradicate black market supplies.
We feel that there is a high probability that organised crime
gangs will still be able to operate in this field with the potential
for increased activity with the decriminalisation of cannabis.
5.5 Home Office research shows how effective
deferred cautioning is in engaging young people into treatment
and others in the criminal justice system. Whilst we would not
support the view that the criminal justice system be used as a
means of people accessing treatment (because what about those
who do not offend) the current points of intervention do provide
a window of opportunity, which would be lost in the wake of decriminalisation.
5.6 We acknowledge the findings of the Runciman
Inquiry and its recommendation to re-classify cannabis. If this
finding is seen as a precursor to the broader debate on the decriminalisation,
the ACPO expresses concern that firstly, too much reliance be
placed on the findings of one inquiry and secondly, that reclassification
is likely to erode police powers to investigate other crimes.
Arguably, of equal standing is the Justice Report, "Drugs
and the Law", which endorsed the status quo.
5.7 Enforcement Activity
The policing of middle markets is the main challenging
area of the enforcement strand of the ten-year strategy.
Performance targets focus on national
and international activity with no targets, funding or agency
responsible for regional or middle markets.
It is not clear what the implications
are likely to be of moving the strategic objective from "stifling
availability" to "disrupting supply". This could
slow down progress as agencies adjust their strategy and tactics,
on the other hand a seamless transition may occur. What is not
clear is whether the consequences have been planned for prior
to the change.
The absence of baseline data is most
stark within the enforcement arena with the key target of "reducing
the availability of Class `A' drugs" being impossible to
measure because of the absence of baseline data.
At present, most drugs dealers' assets
are not successfully seized losing the opportunity to use those
assets directly to support further drugs enforcement work.
The national intelligence model is
providing an effective intelligence base to inform operational
The Concerted Inter-Agency Drug Action
forum has a proven track record of co-ordinating activity.
The middle-markets demonstration
model in the Midlands has immense potential for national implementation.
5.8 If at any time the national position
does move, either in law or in common practice, to the decriminalisation
of a drug or drugs, then the nature of enforcement activity will
need to be reassessed at the same time. The user of a decriminalised
drug has the potential to do harm to others, eg, through disorderly
conduct, putting other people at risk as a driver or user of machinery,
giving drugs to minors and other vulnerable people, or committing
crimes while under the influence. Any "decriminalisation"
of the users would have to be backed up by a tough "re-criminalisation"
of acts of drug-related behaviour that affect the safety or quality
of life of non-users.
6.1 The ACPO supports the ten-year strategy.
Great strides have been made in setting the future direction.
Understandably most of the effort in the early years has been
to set up structures and funding streams to support the major
planks of the strategy. The significant omissions have been to
set performance targets that are not borne out of baseline data
and are not focused on joint agency objectives. The introduction
of joint performance measures and funding would go some way to
encourage greater multi-agency and cross government departmental
working. This will also contribute to establishing a broad research-based
picture of whether the strategy is working.
6.2 The long-term nature of the strategy
cannot be overstated. The Government and agencies must keep their
nerve in looking for results, as they are unlikely to be achieved
in the short term. This is a test for all when so much funding
and effort is being directed towards the drugs problem at a time
of financial constraint and competing priorities. The lock-in
of other agencies could be even further enhanced if the focus
of the ten-year strategy were to be revised slightly so that it
is clear to all that its objectives are very clearly the reduction
to the individual user or potential
to those whom a drugs user can harm
to society in general, eg, through
drugs-related criminality and terrorism.
6.3 The decriminalisation of cannabis is
a debate coming at an unhelpful time when progress must be achieved
from the strategy. It has the potential to de-rail the strategy
by becoming a diversion from the set objectives. To a point decriminalisation
is a step in the dark and may create other problems, which would
be unfortunate when all agencies are valiantly trying to achieve
the drugs objectives.
6.4 Apart from the proposed legislative
changes and the other areas for further development, we remain
fully supportive of the Government's current drugs policy and
ten-year strategy seeing it as providing a sound strategic framework,
which gives all agencies appropriate direction.
6.5 The ACPO advocates that the review by
the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee is timely and should
not be reporting major changes to direction but from the policing
perspective focus on changes that will fill the gaps, which this
paper has highlighted.