Soft-touch warn­ingsDaily ‘fuel cannabis abuse’

Ex­pert fears scheme just de­signed to save court time

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Gra­ham Grant Home Af­fairs Editor

A UNITED Na­tions con­sul­tant has warned soft-touch po­lice warn­ings for drug pos­ses­sion are likely to fuel cannabis abuse.

Dr Ian Oliver, a for­mer chief con­sta­ble at Grampian po­lice, called for manda­tory ed­u­ca­tion about the dan­gers of drugs for those who es­cape pros­e­cu­tion and said the warn­ings may be part of wider moves to le­galise cannabis pos­ses­sion.

The world-renowned drugs ex­pert added that this could be driven by a grow­ing be­lief among po­lice and the medical pro­fes­sion that ‘recre­ational use is all right’. The Mail re­vealed this month that more than 30,000 Recorded Po­lice Warn­ings (RPWs) have been handed out to crim­i­nals, in­clud­ing thugs and drug users, since Jan­uary 2016 – and nearly 6,000 of those were is­sued for pos­ses­sion of cannabis.

Of­fend­ers avoid a full crim­i­nal record as a re­sult of the RPWs is­sued by of­fi­cers for sup­pos­edly ‘mi­nor’ of­fences.

Scot­tish Tory jus­tice spokesman Liam Kerr said: ‘Dr Oliver is a lead­ing con­sul­tant in his field and has first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of front­line polic­ing in Scot­land.

‘His warn­ing echoes what we have been say­ing for some time now about the SNP’s soft-touch ap­proach to jus­tice. Far from act­ing as a de­ter­rent, these warn­ings could en­cour­age crim­i­nals to abuse so­called soft drugs like cannabis.’

Dr Oliver said the high num­ber of RPWs for cannabis pos­ses­sion would ‘prob­a­bly’ in­crease abuse of the drug and voiced fears that it was ‘just a way of keep­ing court ap­pear­ances down’. He said the only way to make the warn­ing sys­tem work would be to back it up with classes about the risks of tak­ing drugs.

Dr Oliver said ‘car driv­ers are some­times of­fered cour­ses to rem­edy what is per­ceived to be poor driv­ing’, so it ‘should also be pos­si­ble to of­fer some ac­cu­rate train­ing about the ef­fects of drugs to those whose con­duct is not highly crim­i­nal, but [who] would ben­e­fit from learn­ing the hard facts’.

He claimed many pro­fes­sion­als – in­clud­ing teach­ers, so­cial work­ers, nurses and po­lice – took the view that ‘recre­ational drug use is all right’, and crit­i­cised Prince Wil­liam for claim­ing re­cently that drug le­gal­i­sa­tion should be dis­cussed.

He said: ‘The con­ta­gion of drug le­gal­i­sa­tion is wide­spread and is not helped, with re­spect, by a fu­ture King asking drug users their opin­ion about le­gal­is­ing drugs, when he should have been well enough briefed to know that this should not be con­sid­ered, and should have been aware about the mes­sage of pos­si­ble ac­cept­abil­ity he was send­ing.’

Po­lice and pros­e­cu­tors have re­peat­edly re­fused to dis­close the crimes for which RPWs are im­posed – in case it en­cour­ages more peo­ple to break the law.

But after a se­ries of re­quests un­der free­dom of in­for­ma­tion leg­is­la­tion, po­lice chiefs ad­mit­ted that 5,827 RPWs had been is­sued for cannabis pos­ses­sion in 2016-17 – about one in five of all drug pos­ses­sion charges.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment in­sists that ‘RPWs pro­vide a pro­por­tion­ate, for­mal way of deal­ing with low-level of­fences which com­monly do not re­sult in court ac­tion and will still ap­pear on records for two years’.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Athol Aitken said RPWs are a ‘pro­por­tion­ate tool avail­able to of­fi­cers to deal with a wide range of low-level of­fences’.

He added: ‘The scheme al­lows of­fi­cers, in ap­pro­pri­ate cir­cum­stances, to use their dis­cre­tion to ef­fec­tively deal with low-level of­fend­ing be­hav­iour at a very early stage.

‘This in­cludes where some­one is found to be in pos­ses­sion of a very small amount of cannabis.’ But he added: ‘Any­one found pos­sess­ing drugs stands a far greater chance of be­ing charged and re­ported than be­ing is­sued with a warn­ing.’

Urged cau­tion: Dr Ian Oliver

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