Examination of Witnesses (Questions 300
TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2001
300. That is you; you have said that
. (Mr Hayman) I do not know where the
source you have got that from but certainly the interview that
I gave really built on the evidence that ACPO gave two or three
years ago to the Police Foundation research and report. Again
I do not wish to be pedantic about this or indeed boring, but
going back to those three pointspurpose, evidence and consequencesACPO's
view around the reclassification of ecstasy is what is the scientific
and medical evidence? What are the experts saying? Based on that
at the time of the submission the chair at that time (which was
not me but I endorsed those comments two or three years ago) said
the indications are that there is not much to be taken between
ecstasy and other amphetamines and from the police perspective
it does not make much difference because the police powers are
exactly the same. What it may do is make a stronger statement
around class A drugs, ie, heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine, but
the consequences from the police perspective were minimal. You
may be referring in that quote to what we were saying. We were
not driving the debate, when we were asked for our view we deferred
to the experts for their expert opinion, and if you ask for the
police perspective, sadly, we know that quite a substantial number
of people pass away from use of ecstasy but when you put them
alongside the categories of heroin and cocaine they may not be
as serious. That is not minimising the sad cases that exist. There
seems to be medical and scientific evidence that puts it very
closely alongside other amphetamines.
301. So you are in favour of reclassifying ecstasy?
(Mr Hayman) The medical and scientific evidence suggests
that there is a cigarette paper's difference between the two and
we feel there has been a mature debate about that and from the
perspective of the community they recognise the powers are not
lost from the police perspective and if the purpose is we give
a greater clarity around the focus on class A, the trigger of
this discussion is whether ecstasy is as dangerous as the other
class A drugs?
302. Is your answer yes or no?
(Mr Hayman) If the medical and scientific evidence
suggests that, the answer is yes.
303. Thank you for clarifying that. My apologies
for not recognising that you are the Chair now.
(Mr Hayman) To be fair to you, that was only two months
down the line.
304. A final point about the Police Federation
which seems to take a very robust view about not changing anything;
do you have any views on that?
(Mr Hayman) In changing what?
305. They are very much against any reclassification,
decriminalisation, legalisation. You are quite right, the different
terms become a bit of a mouthful. They argue that their police
officers, the Bobby on the beat who picks up the lads with cannabis
are against it. Do you think they have got it too strong in their
(Mr Hayman) I can understand why they would oppose
those views but I do feel that the Service needs to respond to
the concerns of the community and in talking about cannabis we
must be very clear what we are talking about here. Cannabis is
the most prevalent debate at the moment but indications are from
the community and certainly from Government that there should
be class B reclassification. We would want to be clear about why
we want to be doing that and have a discussion about transference
of powers which is a separate discussion on which we have got
a view. It may be that the Federation are recognising the debate
about community concerns and the Government's view moving toward
re-classification and it may be they want a more mature debate
around the transference of powers. Without seeing that quote it
would be difficult to know what they are referring to.
306. Somebody said to us the other day in Manchester
that there was a case for defining precisely what constituted
"possession". He was referring particularly to ecstasy,
but I imagine the same arguments might apply to other drugs. He
said a lot of court time was wasted and also a lot of people were
criminalised who were not really dealers who had six as opposed
to five ecstasy tablets. Does anybody agree with that, starting
with Mr Hayman?
(Mr Hayman) There is probably lots of court time taken
up on legal arguments about different legal points and possession
is no different. There is the case law that can refer to what
would be possession for dealing or possession for personal use.
I was interested to see Mr Paddick's written submissionand
I think he is appearing laterwhere he said in guidance
in the Lambeth initiative experiment, that it does not necessarily
follow that if you have got six wraps of cannabis you would necessarily
be seen as in possession as a dealer as opposed to personal use.
It is very much a pragmatic interpretation being put on that.
It is not about the cold possession of what somebody has got in
their pocket. Other factors must come to bear and must be considered.
What are the circumstances of the activity, where was that individual,
and then other intelligence is brought to bear.
307. Stick with ecstasy for the moment, you
are in a club and you get caught and you have got five or six
tabs in your pocket; is that possession?
(Mr Hayman) If I went out into Whitehall, Chairman,
and asked the members of the public in a straw poll "what
would you think if you saw someone in a club with six tablets?"
the consensus would be that no-one could take six tablets so they
must be for other people's usage. If that person is then selling
them or giving them out under the definition of dealing, that
is a very serious criminal offence.
308. What that person was saying was can we
not all agree on a number and then everybody will know where they
stand. At the moment, he said, we are criminalising a lot of young
people who are recreational takers because no-one knows precisely
where the boundary is.
(Mr Hayman) Would that not be nice?
309. That is my question.
(Mr Hayman) You will think I am ducking the question
but I think that is an legal argument rather than for us to be
thinking whether it will fit into possession or whether it will
310. Everybody has got an opinion but I am interested
in what your opinion is.
(Mr Hayman) If you are suggesting to me five or six
tablets of ecstasy I would say that is clearly possession for
311. We have all got different opinions about
the number. I want to know whether it is worth arriving at a number
and sticking to it so everybody knows where they stand.
(Mr Hayman) Working against that is the notion of
fair justice and all the other issues that come to bear on a certain
set of circumstance which a defendant will want to be considered.
They may feel that would be exclusive. If you are just looking
at the numbers all the other factors would be lost. I feel that
someone facing the criminal justice process would feel half his
job has already been done because he would think "I have
got three which complies with the number I am not allowed to have."
312. So you would not be in favour? Does anybody
disagree with that?
(Mr Howard) I think the people you met in Manchester
have hit on quite an important point. If we take cannabis, not
ecstasy, and if we look at the evidence from South Australia,
for example where they have set parameters and very clear and
defined limits, that does not seem to have led to increased prevalence
of use. It does not seem to have led to increased crime. I do
not recognise entirely the evidence and the research base that
Andy was referring to that automatically says that some liberalisation
or some less punitive approach in our drug laws would necessarily
lead to an increase in prevalence or automatically an increase
in crime. To go back to the point about what your Manchester people
were saying, it does seem to me having clarity about that would
send a very clear signal. We have case law at the moment in terms
of supply and it does not seem to be beyond wit's end to say that
might apply to possession offences. I have other things to say
about simple possession offences
313. We will come to that in a minute but on
that one point, a clear line would be sensible?
(Mr Howard) Yes.
(Mr Morris) It does seem to make sense to have an
easy guideline. However, what do you do if somebody has had 100
tablets and sold 96 of them and are left with four? If we had
got that sort of evidence we would have to put it before the court.
314. If you have got evidence that they were
(Mr Morris)But then you come back and say if
somebody is in possession of one tablet and it is clearly admitted
they intended to sell that on to another person, that can no longer
be simple possession. It is difficult and it would have to be
up to the judiciary to say what level of punishment they decide
is appropriate in the circumstances.
315. You say leave the discretion to the judiciary?
(Mr Morris) It would depend on the evidence we have
to put forward. There are other things we were saying earlier,
particularly about Southern Australia. The interesting thing about
the heroin debate is that their heroin has practically dried up
and yet street crime has not gone down as a consequence of it.
What has improved is the number of deaths, which have dropped
dramatically because people have gone onto programmes to help
316. We are going to come on to that in a moment.
Sticking with this one point, Mr Ledger?
(Mr Ledger) I support the principle that you do need
to set a target. Those who decide, the judiciary, have to recognise
that there are different sub-cultures within drug use and ecstasy
is a very particular one often related to the club scene and people
sharing. If you are going to draw a line somewhere you have to
make sure you take in the scenario that applies to that particular
use of the drug. It could be very particular.
317. So for ecstasy you would say yes?
(Mr Ledger) Because the context might allow it. It
is about young people often in a social context where clear directions
might be of help.
318. That is two yeses and two nos; you see
(Mr Hayman) Take the jury out!
319. Mr Hayman, you posed the question what
is our drug strategy all about and can we have clarity. Not to
over-simplify the matter, if our drugs strategy aims are to reduce
harm to individuals, to provide better treatment for addiction,
and to reduce drug associated crime. I know it is much wider but
if it was as simple as that, would you still describe any move
towards decriminalisation or legalisation as a "step in the
(Mr Hayman) Yes I would because all the points you
have made give us such a world-leading strategy. I know that other
countries can recite it but our commitment to treatment, our commitment
to education (and I think there is a lot more to be done around
enforcement, most particularly in middle markets) is such a bold,
strong step in the right direction it would be so much of a diversion
to start getting into debates as you have suggested. Also it is
just so early. We are only three years down the line. There have
been previous strategies but most commentators agree with the
point this is the first time there has been a strategic, all-embracing
strategy as you have described. Let's be patient.