Labour will look at ‘naming and shaming’ scheme for people convicted of buying drugs

Chair of APPG on drugs and alcohol says it would ‘do little, if anything, to reduce drug usage’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Monday 14 February 2022 16:26
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<p>Labour's shadow communities secretary Steve Reed</p>

Labour's shadow communities secretary Steve Reed

A Labour government would look at introducing a scheme ‘naming and shaming’ those who are convicted of buying illegal drugs, a shadow minister has suggested.

In an apparent toughening of the party’s stance on drug use, Steve Reed, the shadow justice secretary hit out at the “trail of destruction the drugs trade” caused on streets across the country.

He also accused the Conservatives of being “soft on crime” and said former Labour prime minister Tony Blair was right in his approach in the 1990s with the slogan “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”.

Tory cabinet ministers, including the home secretary Priti Patel, have previously floated similar policies, repeatedly vowing to “name and shame” middle-class drug users.

But a charity specialising in drug law said it was “nonsense” that naming and shaming could have a deterrent effect, and said both of the main political parties operated in an “evidence free zone” in regards to drug policy.

And Labour MP Dan Carden, who chairs the APPG on drugs and alcohol, said the approach would “do little, if anything, to reduce drug usage or tackle violent crime”, but would add to the stigma preventing people seeking support.

In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Mr Reed was said to have highlighted a scheme naming and shaming people convicted of buying drugs during his stint as a councillor and leader of Lambeth Council.

Asked whether the same could happen under a Labour government, Mr Reed said: “We’d absolutely look at it. It’s important you do it with each locality because they understand what their needs are.

“We wanted to send out the signal that, if you think it’s acceptable to come and buy drugs here, and leave behind you the trail of destruction the drugs trade causes on our streets, we will do everything we can to stop you and we will let your friends, family and employers know what you’ve done”.

Mr Carden, a former Labour frontbencher, highlighted that drug and alcohol deaths were at record levels, and said “tackling this complex, growing problem requires investment in the evidence-led solutions of treatment and recovery”.

“The ‘tough on drugs’ rhetoric is an outdated and ineffective stance on drug policy,” he told The Independent.

“Naming and shaming recreational drug users would do little, if anything, to reduce drug usage or tackle violent crime – but would add to the stigma that stops so many people seeking the support they need.

“By commissioning the landmark Dame Carol Black Review, the Government has finally started to face up to the failed approach of recent decades. I will continue to press ministers to build on this with a whole-system, health-based approach.”

Release, a charity and centre of expertise on drugs and drug law, also told The Independent: “When it comes to drug policy both the main parties are operating in an evidence free zone, the idea that naming and shaming people will act as a deterrent effect is nonsense, drug use in Lambeth certainly did not disappear.

“We know what works from countries across the world that have taken a different approach, over 30 jurisdictions have ended criminal sanctions for drug possession offences, and instead have invested in public health responses.”

They added: “Labour really need to demonstrate they are the party of evidence, and avoid what they think are populist positions, especially given that nearly two thirds of the public think criminalisation is ‘futile’.”

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