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Release: Dorset PCC's response to Home Affairs Select Committee report on drugs

You may have seen that the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) this week released their third report on Drugs. I welcome this report and the opportunity to give evidence to the committee.

Tackling the issue of drugs in Dorset is a priority within my Police and Crime Plan and I am pleased to see that the committee have taken on board the evidence presented about the harmful effects of cannabis. They have recognised that although other countries may adopt a different approach there is clear scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health.

Cannabis and other illegal gateway drugs cause significant harm in our communities, and I was pleased to see, following a visit to Uruguay to find out about the impact there, and a detailed examination of the evidence, that the HASC concludes with a clear and explicit rejection of proposals for legalising cannabis in the UK.

However, that doesn’t mean criminalising people is the answer. I fully support evidence-based approaches to divert drug users away from the criminal justice system into educational and similar programmes and I am pleased to see the HASC advocating for diversion schemes like Checkpoint, which have been pioneered by PCCs. I would not, however, support its proposal to place a duty on police forces to establish such schemes, which should remain a matter for local decision.

I have long said that enforcement alone cannot tackle the issue of drugs in our society. In order to truly combat the issue of drugs, we also need effective treatment and rehabilitation, and impactful education.

I am therefore pleased to see that the HASC agree and is ensuring a cross-government approach is taken to tackling drug problems, bringing together the Home Office and Department for Health and Social Care, as well as other key departments, including the Ministry of Justice and Department for Education. I would reassure the public that this is already happening to a significant degree, and I am honoured to attend the cross-ministerial group driving policy, as well as chair the multi-agency Combatting Drugs Partnership in Dorset.

The HASC report highlights the importance of initiatives to reduce drug-related harms, including the use of naloxone to prevent overdose deaths and buprenorphine to support recovery. Myself and other PCCs across the country, have played a key role in extending the voluntary provision of naloxone by police officers and led calls for developing the use of long-acting buprenorphine, particularly for those leaving prison. 

I, however, think it would be much more controversial to introduce approaches that facilitate illegal drug use, such as drug consumption rooms, and support the current legal position on these. As joint APCC lead for Addiction and Substance misuse, I would also like to have seen more on abstinence and recovery – the HASC says that these can be over-emphasised at the cost of harm reduction; it is my experience that the opposite is more often the case.

I am glad to see that changes are being made and that the HASC share my dedication to tackling the issue of drugs. I will continue to lobby government and work with partners in Dorset through the Combatting Drug Partnership as we endeavour to make Dorset the safest county.

David Sidwick

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner

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