Police chief calls for drugs legalisation


Controversial police chief Richard Brunstrom has called for the legalisation and regulation of all drugs in a report published today.

Mr Brunstrom, the chief constable of North Wales, described the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as “not fit for purpose” and “immoral” and urged its repeal.

Mr Brunstrom, in a report to North Wales police authority, described the current UK drugs strategy as “unwinnable”.

He said: “The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 should be repealed and replaced by a new Substance Misuse Act based upon the legalisation and careful regulation of all substances of abuse in one consistent manner.”

Mr Brunstrom urged his authority to support the stance in its response to the Government’s Drugs: Our Community, Your Say consultation paper.

In a 30-page document — Drugs Policy, A Radical Look Ahead — Mr Brunstrom said: “UK drugs policy for the last several decades has been based upon prohibition with a list of banned substances placed into three classes — the ABC system – and draconian criminal penalties for the possession or supply of controlled drugs.

“This system has not worked well. Illegal drugs are now in plentiful supply, and have become consistently cheaper in real terms over the years.

“The number of users has increased dramatically. Drug crime has soared equally dramatically as a direct consequence of the illegality of some drugs and the huge profits from illegal trading have supported a massive rise in organised criminality.

“Most importantly, the current system illogically excludes both alcohol and tobacco.

“A new classification system, a ’hierarchy of harm’ encompassing all substances of abuse and based upon identified social harms, should, in my opinion, be at the centre of a new substance misuse regime — one based upon evidence, not moralistic dogma.”

The chief constable, who was appointed in 2001, has often attracted criticism for his support of speed cameras and his tough stance against speeding motorists.

Earlier this year he authorised a road safety campaign which included a picture of a dying father of three, Mark Gibney.

It later emerged that Mr Brunstrom had not obtained permission from Mr Gibney’s relatives to use the images.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission’s investigation into the use of the pictures is due to conclude this month.

A Downing Street website petition urging the Prime Minister to sack Mr Brunstrom has gained more than 3,500 signatures.

Mr Brunstrom also urged the North Wales Authority to adopt an “affiliation” status with the charity Transform Drug Policy Foundation.

Danny Kushlick, a director of the organisation, said: “We are absolutely delighted at Mr Brunstrom’s paper.

“The Chief Constable has shown great leadership and imagination in very publicly calling for a drug policy that replaces the evident failings of prohibition with a legal system of regulation and control for potentially dangerous drugs.

“Mr Brunstrom’s call is less surprising when you consider that prohibition, and the illegal markets it creates, is the single largest cause of crime in the UK, generating £100 billion in crime costs alone over the last ten years.

“As a senior policeman he has witnessed first hand the counter productive effects of abdicating responsibility for this dangerous trade to unregulated and often violent criminals.

“His call for drug markets to be brought back within the sphere of Government control stands in enlightened contrast to the populist law and order posturing of our Prime Minister, who recently announced that ’drugs are never going to be decriminalised’.

Mr Kushlick added: “The current Government consultation on the drug strategy has inexplicably ruled out any discussion of alternatives to prohibition, despite the policy’s systematic failure over a number of decades.

“Mr Brunstrom’s paper puts these pragmatic alternatives firmly back on the table, where they should be, if a meaningful debate about ’what works’ is to be entertained.

“It is to be hoped that the Police Authority support the Chief Constable’s recommendations and that other Police Authorities seriously examine the impact of enforcing prohibition.”

Mr Kushlick set up Transform 10 years ago after working with recovering drug addicts.

He said by becoming affiliated with Transform, the Police Authority would be signing up to the goals of the organisation — “to progressively move forward to end the war on drugs”.

He said: “We are not a pro-drugs charity and we do not condone or promote the use of drugs in any way.

“We do know from experience with chaotic drug users that criminalising them and sending them to jail is expensive and does not work.”

Tory MP for Clywd West and shadow Deputy Secretary of State for Wales, David Jones said: “Mr Brunstrom has been touting these ideas for some time but I hope the Police Authority will see sense and robustly reject his proposals.

“I have read the report and what he says is drug takers and suppliers are subject to ’immoral’ policy.

“It is not a question of morality, it is a question of the pernicious effect which drug taking has on society.

“He says the way to control the situation is not to prohibit but to regulate. But in the same document he calls for cigarettes and alcohol to be brought into the classification system.

“Regulation of cigarettes and alcohol has failed to control the problems they cause, so why should regulation control the problems associated with cannabis, heroin and cocaine?

“What Mr Brunstrom should be doing is enforcing the law, aggressively and vigilantly.

“And the Government should be ensuring the resources are there to win the war on drugs.”

Councillor Ian Roberts, Liberal Democrat chairman of the Police Authority, said: “The matter will be considered in detail by the Police Authority on Monday and it would be unfair to pre-empt the debate.”