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11/10/2007 00:00:00

UK: Home Office dismisses police chief Brunstrom's call to legalise

Controversial police chief Richard Brunstrom was slapped down by the
Government last night for calling for cocaine and heroin to be legalised.

The North Wales chief constable sent a paper to the Home Office saying
all drugs should be regulated, claiming the battle against them was

But the Home Office, which is reviewing drugs policy, dismissed the idea.

It said: "The Government is emphatically opposed to the legalisation of
drugs which would increase drug related harm and break both
international and domestic law."

Mr Brunstrom's report says: "UK drugs policy for several decades has not
worked well. Drugs are plentiful and have become cheaper. The number of
users has increased.

"Drug crime has soared and profits from illegal trading have supported a
massive rise in organised criminality.

"A classification system, a hierarchy of harm, should be at the centre
of a new substance misuse regime, one based on evidence, not moralistic

Tory spokesman on Wales David Jones said: "Mr Brunstrom should be
enforcing the law aggressively."

Mr Brunstrom had said the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as "not fit for
purpose" and "immoral" and urged its repeal.

In a 30-page document - Drugs Policy, A Radical Look Ahead - Mr
Brunstrom said: "UK drugs policy for the last several decades has been
based upon prohibition with a list of banned substances placed into
three classes - the ABC system - and draconian criminal penalties for
the possession or supply of controlled drugs.

"This system has not worked well. Illegal drugs are now in plentiful
supply, and have become consistently cheaper in real terms over the years.

"The number of users has increased dramatically. Drug crime has soared
equally dramatically as a direct consequence of the illegality of some
drugs and the huge profits from illegal trading have supported a massive
rise in organised criminality.

"Most importantly, the current system illogically excludes both alcohol
and tobacco.

"A new classification system, a 'hierarchy of harm' encompassing all
substances of abuse and based upon identified social harms, should, in
my opinion, be at the centre of a new substance misuse regime - one
based upon evidence, not moralistic dogma."

The chief constable, who was appointed in 2001, has often attracted
criticism for his support of speed cameras and his tough stance against
speeding motorists.

Earlier this year he authorised a road safety campaign which included a
picture of a dying father of three, Mark Gibney.

It later emerged that Mr Brunstrom had not obtained permission from Mr
Gibney's relatives to use the images.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission's investigation into the
use of the pictures is due to conclude this month.

A Downing Street website petition urging the Prime Minister to sack Mr
Brunstrom has gained more than 3,500 signatures.

Mr Brunstrom had urged the North Wales Police Authority to adopt an
"affiliation" status with the charity Transform Drug Policy Foundation.

Danny Kushlick, a director of the organisation, said: "We are absolutely
delighted at Mr Brunstrom's paper.

"The Chief Constable has shown great leadership and imagination in very
publicly calling for a drug policy that replaces the evident failings of
prohibition with a legal system of regulation and control for
potentially dangerous drugs.

"Mr Brunstrom's call is less surprising when you consider that
prohibition, and the illegal markets it creates, is the single largest
cause of crime in the UK, generating £100 billion in crime costs alone
over the last ten years.

"As a senior policeman he has witnessed first hand the counter
productive effects of abdicating responsibility for this dangerous trade
to unregulated and often violent criminals.

"His call for drug markets to be brought back within the sphere of
Government control stands in enlightened contrast to the populist law
and order posturing of our Prime Minister, who recently announced that
'drugs are never going to be decriminalised'.

Mr Kushlick added: "The current Government consultation on the drug
strategy has inexplicably ruled out any discussion of alternatives to
prohibition, despite the policy's systematic failure over a number of

"Mr Brunstrom's paper puts these pragmatic alternatives firmly back on
the table, where they should be, if a meaningful debate about 'what
works' is to be entertained.

"It is to be hoped that the Police Authority support the Chief
Constable's recommendations and that other Police Authorities seriously
examine the impact of enforcing prohibition."

Mr Kushlick set up Transform 10 years ago after working with recovering
drug addicts.

He said by becoming affiliated with Transform, the Police Authority
would be signing up to the goals of the organisation - "to progressively
move forward to end the war on drugs".

He said: "We are not a pro-drugs charity and we do not condone or
promote the use of drugs in any way.

"We do know from experience with chaotic drug users that criminalising
them and sending them to jail is expensive and does not work."

Tory MP for Clywd West and shadow Deputy Secretary of State for Wales,
David Jones said: "Mr Brunstrom has been touting these ideas for some
time but I hope the Police Authority will see sense and robustly reject
his proposals.

"I have read the report and what he says is drug takers and suppliers
are subject to 'immoral' policy.

"It is not a question of morality, it is a question of the pernicious
effect which drug taking has on society.

"He says the way to control the situation is not to prohibit but to
regulate. But in the same document he calls for cigarettes and alcohol
to be brought into the classification system.

"Regulation of cigarettes and alcohol has failed to control the problems
they cause, so why should regulation control the problems associated
with cannabis, heroin and cocaine?

"What Mr Brunstrom should be doing is enforcing the law, aggressively
and vigilantly.

"And the Government should be ensuring the resources are there to win
the war on drugs."

Councillor Ian Roberts, Liberal Democrat chairman of the Police
Authority, said: "The matter will be considered in detail by the Police
Authority on Monday and it would be unfair to pre-empt the debate."

Author: Daily Mail via UKCIA

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