Submitted by the National Crime Squad
The National Crime Squad has the mandate to
deal with serious and organised crime and our investigative ethos
is to pursue the criminal group, not the crime. We are confident
that investigations that focus on securing the prosecution of
Organised Criminals, no matter what the offence, offers the best
route to a satisfactory outcome and disruption of criminality
at the highest level.
It is a fact that organised criminals trade
in a range of commodities to facilitate their wealth creation
and enhance their criminal reputations and status. Class A and
B drugs are currently the favoured trading currency of many of
these groups. 64 per cent of the National Crime Squad's current
activity profile includes intelligence of trading in Class A drugs
and 66 per cent of our arrests result in prosecutions for trafficking
in Class A drugs. Our focus here is largely driven by the 10 year
UK Drugs Strategy.
Our research suggests that organised crime commodity
selection and the manner in which it is traded is based on a criminal
business case which weighs risks and benefits. Trafficking narcotics
is subject to a number of possible threats ranging from the detection
and prosecution by law enforcement agencies to violent exchanges
with competitors, customers and suppliers. Successful trading
is accompanied and complemented, by debt enforcement and expansion
into the territory of other groups, often resulting in violent
conflict. The list of threats is by no means exhaustive.
Response to a perceived increase in threat might
range from adopting anti-surveillance measures, through to the
carrying and use of firearms during periods of high risk. Eventually
if trading drugs is "risk assessed" by the criminal
group as unacceptably hazardous they have shown that they will
divert to dealing in other commodities and take to operating in
other business areas. This flexibility is also exercised when
opportunities outside their usual trading environment are identified.
Examples of this can be seen as Turkish heroin traffickers divert
their activities to "people smuggling", changing the
commodity whilst utilising existing routes, structures and contacts.
The activities of organised crime groups are
determined by the perceived business opportunities for profit,
balanced against the identified risks. At this time those opportunities
outweigh the risks ensuring the continued interest of these groups
in this area of business. If for any reason the opportunities
afforded by the trade in class A and B drugs were removed these
groups have shown that they are unlikely to retire from organised
In response to the specific questions:
(a) does drugs policy work?
Our experience is that we are not struggling
to find appropriate trafficking networks to investigate, therefore
the drugs business is still thriving. We see no evidence of declining
demand, as they recognise we focus on a particular state of the
UK Drugs Strategy.
(b) what would be the effect of decriminalisation
(i) on availability and demand?
We feel this would be an incentive to existing
and potential traffickers to seek to grow the market place without
fear of sanction. The demand base would expand and the culture
of acceptance spiral out of control. New and highly synthetic
products are the future market dominates. Such decriminalisation
would encourage a reduction.
(ii) on drug-related deaths?
It is likely to herald an increase in what must
become a larger marketplace both in those who abuse narcotics
to excess or in circumstances that lead to theirs or others deaths.
Equally to decriminalise does not mean to remove criminal ownership.
Turf wars will likely increase and "drug-related deaths"
increase in terms of executions of even "firefights".
Normal incomes cannot fund drug habits, only
crime can. We do not feel it likely that the marketplace will
shrink should decriminalisation take place. Decriminalising cannabis
or other narcotics will not take the money out of the criminal
business equation. Drug traders will always market multi-commodities
and that means they will employ every tactic up to coercion to
secure new markets. Partial de-criminalisation is equally unlikely
to defuse the business area.
(c) The British Drug Survey would indicate
that within the "caution" system already open to law
enforcement there is de facto de-criminalisation for personal
use drugs, particularly cannabis. It has been so for some years
and seems (neither?) to encourage the market, nor discourage.
There is no easy, practical alternative. To decriminalise all
or part of this market would not, in our view, decrease abuse.
Traders who sell cannabis also tend to sell the whole range of
narcotics and user progression is probably inevitable.
The ten year National Strategy is three years
old and to reach its targets will be unlikely. Much good work
has gone on in the law enforcement environment to join together
effectively to "reduce availability".
More is required. Law enforcement is a lumbering
giant in need of help to focus on this issue. We are convinced
that to be as successful as required, we must:
Pressure the drugs market at every
opportunity and sustain it.
Get more criminal money out of the
systemit represents the fuel in the engine.
The justice process must have the tools to snip
drug traders money of our pockets. This needs to be "draconian",
punishing process. Judges are reluctant to seize homes and businesses,
cars, personal property and savings. Proceeds of crime legislation
will assist, but not enough.
The maxim must be: Sell drugs = Lose everything
There is plenty of evidence that traffickers
at every level continue, even in prison, to conduct their criminal
Law enforcement, particularly at territorial
level, has many priorities placed upon it as it must have the
resource to address the drug market aggressively and effectively.
We will need to find ways of delivering that consistency of pressure
at territorial (level one and two Nation Intelligence Model) policing