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UK: Cannabis users face 'postcode lottery' of police punishment
Saturday 05 Jan 2019
Campaigners are furious at police over a “postcode lottery” approach to tackling cannabis possession.
A Sunday Mirror probe reveals that in some areas one in 10 caught with the drug were charged last year.
And while two forces charged more than half, the average prosecution rate nationwide was 27.7 per cent.
Campaigners in favour of legalising cannabis AND those seeking greater punishments slammed the huge disparity.
Home Office figures show how police tackle the UK’s 2.2million cannabis users and an illegal trade worth £2.5billion annually.
But 30,807 were let off with a warning. Other out of court penalties were 6,101 cautions, 5,563 spot fines and 6,581 cases with a “community resolution”.
Nottinghamshire and Cleveland forces had the most robust approach, each charging more than 51 per cent.
At the other end of the scale Surrey Police charged 13.4 per cent and Durham Police prosecuted 15.9 per cent.
The Metropolitan Police charged 6,148 and gave out-of-court sanctions to another 18,497 – a prosecution rate of almost 25 per cent.
Jane Slater, from Transform Drug Policy Foundation, believes rehab is a better solution to tackling cannabis.
She said: “A postcode lottery is unjust and leads to discrimination against the poor, vulnerable and minorities.
“Instead of giving people a criminal record for possessing drugs, diversion offers them education, help and treatment.
“This saves police resources and reduces re-offending.”
Former undercover drugs cop Neil Woods, chairman of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) UK, said: “Pursuing people for possession has no benefit in policing terms.
“It also has no impact on supply and demand. All of the £2.5billion goes into the pockets of organised crime and invested into other criminal activity.
“If you want to stop that criminality you have to take the market away from organised crime. You only do that by regulating the product.”
Liz McCulloch, director of policy at thinktank Volteface, said: “Enforcement is inconsistent and chaotic.”
Last month MPs blocked a bid by Lib Dem Norman Lamb to legalise cannabis. He had also outlined the “postcode lottery” of policing. However, opponents warn cannabis is a gateway drug to harder substances.
David Spencer, research director at the Centre for Crime Prevention, said: “Cannabis is a serious Class B drug not only proven to cause mental health problems, but linked to subsequent Class A drug abuse and a host of violent offences.
“To see police taking such a lax attitude is deeply troubling.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The police and criminal justice system have a range of measures available... and the tools to deal robustly with serious and repeat offenders who cause the most harm.”
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