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'Swift Certain Tough' - how to deal with illegal drugs

The PCC talks about the Home Office White Paper on tackling illegal drug use.

Today the Home Office have launched a public consultation on Government plans to reform the way the criminal justice system deals with adult drug possession – called “Swift, Certain, Tough. New Consequences for Drug Possession”, it sets out plans to fine or force so-called ‘recreational’ users of illegal drugs such as cocaine and cannabis to pay for a place on a drug awareness course.

Under the new plans, people who do not comply with the penalties risk losing their passports and driving licences and a ‘three strikes’-style deterrent would be introduced for first-time offenders.

Under the proposal, first time offenders, would be issued with a fixed penalty notice as an alternative to prosecution, which requires them to attend and pay for a drugs awareness course.

For drug users caught for a second time, the plans outline a caution being given, a period of mandatory drug testing, alongside attendance at a further stage drugs awareness course and random drug testing.

For those caught on a third occasion, the plan would be to charge the individual and upon conviction as part of a civil court order, there could be a banning order brought in to preclude that person from pubs and clubs, the potential for them to wear a ‘drug-tag’ and to have their driving licence or passport confiscated.

I wholeheartedly welcome this approach from the government and their desire to “tackle the scourge of substance abuse in society”.

I recently attended the Home Affairs Select Committee to talk about tackling drugs and drug-related crimes, both in my capacity as Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and as Joint Lead for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), Addiction and Substance Misuse Portfolio. 

And as part of my evidence to the Committee, I outlined that in my opinion, tackling drug criminality starts with having tough enforcement on the dealers who use violence and exploit our young and vulnerable and that working with partners is vital if we are get a real grip on the problem.

As a result of that approach in Dorset, we now have Operation Scorpion across the whole of the South-West - putting a ring of steel round the whole region to deter drug traffic coming in.

Dorset also now has its own dedicated drug taskforce in Operation Viper, taking the fight against county lines and drug criminality into our communities, taking drugs off our streets, arresting individuals, removing weapons and safeguarding vulnerable individuals.  

Escalating penalties such as the loss of a driving licence or passport may well be needed to change behaviour in a middle-class cocaine user, but not necessarily for a young person using illegal gateway drugs and so I welcome the ‘three strikes’ approach as outlined in the White Paper. With tough enforcement we also need better treatment for those addicted and impactful awareness and education campaigns and this White Paper is part of the solution.

Addressing the problem of illegal drugs is a top priority for me and for the government – so I would encourage you to find out more and take part in the consultation.

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