Black people 12 times more likely to be prosecuted for cannabis, new analysis shows

Exclusive: ‘Young people are dying on our streets while police are looking for a spliff’

Nadine White
Friday 28 May 2021 11:08 BST

Black people are 12 times more likely to be prosecuted for cannabis possession than white people, according to new analysis by the Liberal Democrats who are calling for an end to the use of Stop and Search for small amounts.

Brian Paddick, the former police chief who is the party’s home affairs spokesperson in the House of Lords, warned that the focus on canabis possession for personal use is “a waste of police and court time” and “undermines trust and confidence in the police among Black communities”.

He is proposing an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would end the use of Stop and Search for possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use.

Liberal Democrat analysis of new Ministry of Justice statistics found that there were a total of 26,095 prosecutions for drug possession in 2020 – 57 per cent of them (14,894) for cannabis.

Black people faced 148.4 prosecutions for cannabis possession per 100,000 people, compared to 12.2 per 100,000 for white people.

Separate Home Office data reveals that a Black person is eight times more likely to be stopped and searched for drugs than a white person, but no more likely to be found with drugs.

Lord Paddick said: “The UK’s outdated drug laws are doing more harm than good. Cannabis is freely available and widely used, while criminal drug gangs are doing enormous damage to our communities and the lives of young people.

“Stopping, arresting and prosecuting thousands of people just for possession of cannabis for personal use is a waste of police and court time. Meanwhile, the vast majority of burglaries go unsolved, and even crimes that are prosecuted drag on for years before victims get justice because the courts are clogged-up with minor drugs cases.

“To make matters worse, the disproportionate use of these laws undermines trust and confidence in the police among black communities. Young people are dying on our streets while the police are looking for a spliff.”

He added: “We urgently need to restore the trust that is crucial for effective policing, such as the targeting of stop and search on those whom the community knows are the ones carrying the knives.

“Instead of wasting their time searching people for small amounts of cannabis, let’s give police officers the time and space to prevent and solve crimes that are important people and that make our communities safer for everyone.”

Deputy CEO of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Jane Slater, told The Independent: “We welcome any move to prevent stop and search for small drug offences, and have recently partnered with social action network, Blaksox, to expose these discriminatory practices and demand reform of our 50 year old failed drug laws.

“As the evidence demonstrates stop and search has proved ineffective at reducing drug use, curtailing drug markets, or reducing drug related harm. Rather it has led to disproportionate criminalisation of marginalised communities - particularly inner-city black youth, fueling stigma and inequalities.”

It comes as campaigners launched a super-complaint against powers to stop and search people without suspicion in areas chosen by the police, amid allegations of ineffectiveness and racism.

The Criminal Justice Alliance (CJA), a network of 160 organisations, is calling for section 60 stop and search laws to be repealed as numbers rocket in England and Wales.

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