Scottish Daily Mail

Anger over random drug tests in queue for city nightclubs

- By Graham Grant Home Affairs Editor

P OLICE are using hi-tech swab kits to check i f clubbers have been taking drugs. Customers queueing at clubs i n Aberdeen have been approached by officers without warning and had their hands checked for traces of illegal substances.

Those who do not co-operate risk being refused entry – while others who test positive are questioned and could be searched and arrested.

But politician­s and licensed trade bosses have criticised the tactic as a breach of young people’s rights.

Police Scotland has also been at the centre of a recent storm over young people being stopped and searched.

Scottish Lib Dem l eader Willie Rennie said: ‘ Carrying out such tests without a suspicion of a crime is a heavyhande­d and indiscrimi­nate tactic. Police Scotland need to review this tactic and explain how t hi s hel ps a ddress drug-taking.’

Officers recently turned up at Club Tropicana in Aberdeen with a drug-detection machine called an ‘itemiser’ and a sniffer dog. They tested 100 people and a CCTV van monitored the club’s entrance. But officers failed to register any positive results for illegal drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, Ecstasy and heroin.

Club boss Tony Cochrane said: ‘I support an anti- drug policy but I feel this latest action by Police Scotland is a step too far. Officers stood at the entrance and took sample swabs on customers with an expectatio­n we should refuse admission to non-compliants.

‘We appreciate the work the police do but they’re achieving nothing with this policy. People going for a night out are being made to feel like potential criminals.’

Graeme Pearson, Scottish Labour justice spokesman and ex-head of the Scottish Drug Enforcemen­t Agency, added: ‘Where police spring tests upon people and there’s a pressure to co-operate, it adds concern about the giving of consent and whether operations like this are appropriat­e.’

The £ 25,000 drug- testing device is designed to indicate whether a person has picked up il l egal s ubstances or handled a significan­t quantity.

Four men were charged with drug offences after the machine was used in Aberdeen’s Union Street in May.

Highland and Islands independen­t MSP John Finnie, convener of the Holyrood’s cross-party group on human rights, said: ‘It would be interestin­g to understand the legal basis for these approaches.

‘It’s important that citizens co-operate with police but I’m struggling to understand what can be achieved by t his approach.’

Inspector Lorna Ferguson of Police Scotland said: ‘ The itemiser is a visible deterrent to those seeking to enter pubs and clubs in possession of drugs.’

‘Visible deterrent’

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