Thames Valley PCC: Candidates discuss drugs policy

A heroin user prepares a fix The annual estimated cost to England and Wales of Class A drug use was £15bn

Candidates for the Thames Valley police and crime commissioner (PCC) election have given a mixed response to a report into the penalties for drug misuse.

All six standing in Thursday's election responded to BBC questions about the UK Drug Policy Commission document published in October.

It concluded the penalties for drug misuse should be relaxed.

While candidates agreed the law was a matter for politicians each had an opinion on police priorities for drugs.

The UK Drug Policy Commission undertook six years of research and concluded that possession of small amounts should no longer be a criminal offence.

The report, called A Fresh Approach to Drugs, said the annual estimated cost to England and Wales of Class A drug use was £15bn and the UK was wasting much of the £3bn it spends each year on tackling the problem.

But Independent candidate Geoff Howard and Anthony Stansfeld, Conservative, both had a strong anti-drug message.

Mr Howard said: "Once you start on the slippery slope and relax these things you're onto a loser."

While Mr Stansfeld said: "In view of the fact that the numbers taking drugs is reducing I believe the present measures are satisfactory."

Start Quote

It is important for the politicians to have a debate about the law and not for the police to act unilaterally”

End Quote John Howson

UKIP's Barry Cooper said his party favoured a discussion about decriminalisation and the regulation of cannabis use, followed by a referendum on the issue.

He said personally his "only major concern with decriminalising cannabis is the problem with being able to easily determine if someone is driving under the influence of the drug".

The Liberal Democrat candidate John Howson questioned how far the authors of the report intended to go with their proposals and said it was important for politicians to debate the law and not for police to act unilaterally.

He said: "We have not decriminalised sale of either tobacco or alcohol to young people and still regard drink-driving as a crime. It is not clear whether the authors of the report wish to go further with drugs and remove all criminal sanctions such as these?"

'Treatment works'

Labour candidate Tim Starkey was positive about the main thrust of the report, saying: "The priority, in such cases, should be putting the drug user in contact with organisations who can help address his or her problems with substance misuse and addiction.

"I have long believed that one function of processing suspects when they are booked into police stations should be to act as a 'triage' to identify people with addiction or mental health problems and to refer them to the help they need."

Independent candidate Patience Tayo Awe said we should not send out misleading messages that might encourage people to take drugs.

She added: "I will invest in Drug Intervention Programme, drug and alcohol services that will reduce crime and anti-social behaviour."

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