Leading article: A bold attempt to clear the clouds of confusion

Share

The Chief Constable of North Wales, Richard Brunstrom, will today ask his police authority to put its weight behind his call for the legalisation of drugs. Heroin, ecstasy, LSD, cannabis – the chief constable is advocating that all should be legal. He says current policies are failing, and he wants this to be the official submission of his force to the current Home Office consultation on drugs strategy.

This is brave talk. It is likely to be met with the usual knee-jerk dismissal that such recommendations habitually attract. But, as more and more thoughtful people adopt this view, is it not time to consider the chief constable's views on their merits? There has been a tendency to believe that the only people qualified to challenge current orthodoxy on drugs policy are those familiar with the gritty inner city. If the police chief in a predominantly rural region – itself not immune to drug problems – believes the law as it stands is having a perverse effect, surely this is a sign that the blight of addiction warrants a new approach.

Mr Brunstrom is the only chief constable to have been so outspoken in support of the legalisation of all drugs. But he is not such a lone voice in the upper echelons of the police service. Over the past 12 months, other senior officers have argued for the treatment of heroin addiction as a medical, rather than criminal, issue. Over the same time, the extent to which the illegality of drugs itself generates crime has been become increasingly, and shockingly, apparent.

All the prostitutes murdered in Ipswich last winter were drug addicts, selling their bodies to feed their habit. Of the young people killed in shootings in south London, Liverpool and Manchester in recent months, most lost their lives directly or indirectly because of drugs. Some were themselves involved in drug-related gangs; others fell foul of such a gang.

Illegal drugs are a direct, or contributory, factor in Britain's swelling prison population. Mugging, shop-lifting, burglary and the like are crimes committed by many not for money or property as such, but for funds to secure their next fix. And the Government's promise of treatment as an alternative, or supplement, to prison has done little to reduce the numbers. Often this is because, even where treatment is available, the offender has to wait for a place on a programme, and then the treatment is too peremptory to do a great deal of long-term good. That the street price of drugs is falling, and that drug use is now endemic even in many prisons, illustrates how current policies have failed.

Mr Brunstrom argues that the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act should be replaced by a new Substance Misuse Act. This would legalise and regulate all substances of abuse, including alcohol and tobacco, which would be classified according to a "hierarchy of harm". His reasoning is that regulation, rather than criminalisation, would result in a sharp drop in drug-related crime, allowing public funds to be transferred to treatment. In some cases, that treatment might include the supply of, say, heroin, under medically controlled conditions.

The chief constable's thinking is along similar lines to a report published by the Royal Society of Arts Commission on Drugs six months ago, which called for an end to the "moral panic" surrounding drugs, and the start of a rational analysis. Like the RSA, Mr Brunstrom cites the reluctance of politicians to challenge the hard line on drugs for fear of public opinion. He is right. The debate on drugs is wrapped up in a fog of confusion, myth and hysteria. It is time that prevailing assumptions were challenged and the bankruptcy of current policies seen for what it is. The Chief Constable of North Wales has made a welcome start.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Financial Director / FD / Senior Finance Manager

Up to 70k DOE: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Financial Director ...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Luton - £24,000

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst vacancy with a we...

Recruitment Genius: Instructional Training Designer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic and interes...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse & Stores Supervisor

£16224 - £20280 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Warehouse & Stores Supervisor...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

No more big characters or Tory clowns like Boris Johnson. London desperately needs a boring mayor

Rachel Holdsworth
Cilla Black lived her life in front of the lens, whether on television or her earlier pop career  

Cilla Black death: A sad farewell to the singer who gave us a 'lorra, lorra laughs'

Gerard Gilbert
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen