Tyne & Wear

Durham PCC Ron Hogg relaxes prosecutions for cannabis users

Ron Hogg Image copyright Labour Party
Image caption Mr Hogg said going looking for somebody smoking drugs was not a "key priority" for the force

Durham's police and crime commissioner Ron Hogg is offering cannabis users the chance to avoid prosecution in a bid to stop a "cycle of reoffending".

Mr Hogg wants to see users of the class B drug in County Durham and Darlington entered onto a course to deal with their habit rather than being arrested.

The Checkpoint programme aims to stop reoffending by diverting addicts away from their habit.

A spokesman for Addiction UK said it sent a message that "drugs are OK".

Those who are caught with cannabis will swap a conviction for a Checkpoint contract where users will work with Durham Constabulary to tackle their drug habit.

Mr Hogg said: "Traditionally what would have happened is people would have been arrested for using cannabis, sometimes imprisoned and it just maintained a cycle of reoffending in and out of prison.

"We want to try and break that cycle whilst also having a sensible debate around cannabis.

"If they fail to engage then we will prosecute."

'Mental health'

Simon Stephens, director of casework for Addiction UK, said: "Essentially, I'm coming at this from a health perspective - I think that his comments aren't particularly helpful.

"It does send a message that drugs are OK - there can be no doubt that there a significant amount of people with mental health problems brought on by cannabis."

Mr Hogg said going looking for somebody smoking drugs was not a "key priority" for the force.

He said: "If communities complain about people using cannabis, we will deal with that, we will deal with that proactively."

He added that he did not see it as a "step towards decriminalisation" of the drug - that was a national debate which he would "abdicate".

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