Tories on attack as drug crimes rise

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Soaring numbers of drugs offences have been recorded by police after officers were given extra powers to caution people for possessing cannabis.

The 14% rise, disclosed in the latest crime figures for England and Wales, prompted accusations that ministers were failing to get to grips with the misery caused by drug addiction. Overall, levels of crime fell over the period, with sharp falls in violent offences and armed attacks.

The increase in drugs offences was reported as Gordon Brown prepares to reverse the decision three years ago to downgrade cannabis from a class B to class C substance. Police recorded 55,000 drug crimes between April and June, compared with 48,300 in the same period last year.

The Home Office insisted the figures did not suggest increasing drug use, but reflected the increasing willingness of police to issue cautions for cannabis possession.

But David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, denounced the Government's "shambolic and failed" policy on drug-related crime, saying: "These statistics show Labour have patently failed to deliver on their rhetoric. Drug abuse is not an isolated crime – it destroys lives, wrecks communities, fuels other crime and is a major cause of our broken society."

Overall, recorded crime levels fell 7% to just under 1.3 million offences over the period. The numbers of violent offences dropped by 8%, which included a 14 per cent drop in the most serious violence.

Robbery showed a 9% fall, sexual offences also dropped 9% and criminal damage fell by 10%. Property crime, including burglary, criminal damage and car thefts, dropped by 7%.