Letter: Link between drugs and crime

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The Independent Online
Sir: Polly Toynbee ("It's a waste of money being hard on soft- drug users", 26 June) is quite right to argue that we should concentrate on seizing hold of serious addicts and treating them quickly in programmes that really do reduce the crimes they commit.

This is one reason why the Government is to introduce a compulsory drug testing and treatment order to give courts the power to send seriously drug-addicted offenders for treatment. This will be taken forward as a key part of the Crime and Disorder Bill, to break the link between drugs and crime.

And, contrary to the author's claim that "many get no treatment in prison", more than pounds 10m across the prison estate is currently spent on drug treatment programmes. Reducing the level of drug misuse in prisons is another of our priorities.

Yes, public opinion is still firmly against legalisation of drugs and the Government agrees with this. Drugs destroy lives and any debate must not detract from this strong message - taking an Ecstasy tablet is like playing Russian roulette.

Polly Toynbee draws on the British Crime Survey to suggest that around half of our young people are using drugs on a Saturday night. The survey suggests nothing of the sort. It does suggest that roughly half of all young people say they have taken a drug at some point in their lives. But this drops to one in four who say they have taken one in the last year and even fewer - just one in seven - have done so in the last month.

These figures are, of course, too high, and that is the main reason why Ann Taylor will be appointing a "drug Czar" to draw up a new strategy and co-ordinate all our efforts to tackle the drugs menace.

GEORGE HOWARTH MP

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State

Home Office

London SW1

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