Britain's Drugs Crisis: Law 'motivates criminal activity': Viewpoint

WE MUST abandon the use of the criminal law to regulate the supply and use of controlled drugs for two very good reasons. It has little effect on supply or use and it motivates secondary criminal activity that is now more dangerous to society than the drug use it purports to limit.

A reluctant awareness of the broad effect of drug legislation now permeates senior police management discussions. The other agencies - Customs and Excise and members of the judiciary, the legislature and the medical profession - all face the dilemma that the current cure may well be more detrimental to society than the disease.

Very few people have ever maintained that the criminal law could prevent the personal use of any substance in private. Most users pass through the drug stage without suffering personal medical harm, without graduating through the range of substances available and without incurring the long-term effects of a criminal conviction or expulsion from school.

Deployments of police and Customs officers have concentrated on the importation and supply routes, and growing resources of manpower and equipment have been targeted at the top of the supply pyramid.

Better leadership, intelligence, international co-operation and training have produced increases in the traditional measures of success: seizures and convictions. However, all agencies estimate an effect on no more than one-tenth of the market.

If the effect of the current policy is minimal on supply and use, then what is its side effect on society?

A basic knowledge of market forces would reveal that the current policy maintains a high commodity price at both wholesale and street levels. Indeed, the high price in the United Kingdom has been used as an indicator of successful seizure rates. That high price produces high profits along the supply chain and gives rise to two secondary crime problems.

The vast nation-wide increases in property crimes - burglary, theft, car offences, robbery - is directly related to the costs of drug use. All the police research indicates drug use by a majority - varying from 70 to 80 per cent - of active criminals. Victims of crimes are more worthy of our sympathy than the users and they alone provide motivation to reassess current policy.

The philanthropic drug dealer does not exist. The current approach ensures that profit margins are high, and we create a 'high profit-low risk' business attracting recruits from the entire range of established criminality. Every new entrant into the supply chain, whether in importation or near street level, has a motive to increase use and to move the base user on to more profitable 'harder' drugs.

Individuals set against decriminalisation quote the 'slippery slope' argument and blame the drug itself or the inclination of users. If the commodity were credit, they would without hesitation point to the banks or other financial institutions for encouraging excessive use and would argue for regulation, nationalisation and supportive education. Yet with drug supply, they ignore their own market and behavioural experience and blame user and commodity.

The drug entrepreneurs are creating an anti-social sphere of activity that treats murder as an overhead, produces a black economy of vast proportions, produces corrupt approaches to the countering agencies, sets a reprehensible example to youth and is motivated purely by profit.

Decriminalisation takes the profit out of the equation and takes the user away from the criminal supplier. Legalisation is not a surrender but a recognition that economics is a more potent weapon than the criminal law.

The aim of society is the lowest level of drug use achievable. The criminal law is incapable of delivering that aim and, ironically, it produces motive for myriad other crimes that injure individuals more demanding of consideration than the user of drugs. It is time for a rethink.

Until last June, Edward Ellison was Detective Chief Superintendent, Crime Support Unit, Specialist Operations, New Scotland Yard. He served on the national team that initiated the formation of the National Criminal Intelligence Service.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor