Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380
TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2001
Chairman: Gentlemen, we 380. Is it your
experience that most hard drug users started on cannabis?
(Mr Paddick) I do not have sufficient experience.
It has been a long time since I arrested people for drugs. The
people who arrest people for drugs for me now, my officers, do
not go into the history of how people started on drugs, that would
not be part of the information that is taken. It would probably
be the information that is taken by the drugs workers who now
work within the custody suites. I would not like to say whether
cannabis is a gateway drug. Personally, just from my reading and
my understanding without any medical background at all, my lay
commonsense view of things is there are some people who have addictive
personalities. If there were not any drugs around they would become
alcoholics. Some people can have a drink and leave the rest in
the bottle, some people cannot, they have to drink the whole bottle.
Some people can pick up cannabis and smoke cannabis and never
go on to anything else, other people cannot help themselves and
go on to other things.
381. I was just trying to establish whether
there is a link between hard drugs and cannabis. I am not suggesting
that everybody who takes cannabis goes on to hard drugs but is
there a link between hard drug users having starting on cannabis?
(Mr Paddick) I do not have any evidence to say that
is the case.
382. It is quite pivotal to our investigation.
(Mr Paddick) Yes.
383. Mr Wilkinson, could I ask you that question?
(Mr Wilkinson) Again, it is not something that I particularly
investigated. Again, common sense says the person who moves on
to heroin will already have had cannabis, tobacco, alcohol and
most of the other things which are going around. I do not think
there is any cause and effect relationship between cannabis and
heroin. In as far as there is, and this is only occasional, it
might be that the person who is supplying cannabis, of course,
on the illegal market is also a person who is prepared to sell
anything else. So on that basis the sort of arrangement that they
have in Hollandnot that I am a supporter of thattends
to separate cannabis from the supply of harder drugs and, therefore,
reduces that possibility.
384. Mr Ogden?
(Mr Ogden) Yes, my Drug Action Team, and me personally,
strongly believe that cannabis is a gateway for many people into
class A substances. I review in great detail with members of the
professional advisory group's introduction team every drug related
fatality. We have reviewed about 150 deaths over the last four
years, some of them actually occurred before the four year period.
98 per cent of those people who died from a heroin overdose actually
were using cannabis. I must say also alcohol as well but cannabis
before they moved on to other substances. I am not an academic
but I think that is a significant piece of information. More work
needs to be done with it but we believe it is a gateway drug,
not for everybody but for many people.
385. What would your view of legalising cannabis
(Mr Ogden) I and the Drug Action Team, who I represent
here today, strongly oppose it. We had a long discussion about
this two weeks ago before I came down here and we have that view.
Like Commander Paddick we have to police an area, deal with the
Drug Action Team issues in the area according to the local issues
in that area. Head teachers in schools and education people are
telling me that they are seeing young men and young women, particularly
young men, 13, 14 and 15, who are performing extremely well academically,
who are performing very well in sport, dropping out and going
into drift form in those formative years. There are other reasons
for that but cannabis is a feature of that. As we speak to young
people, because we have made this a priority for drug education
in the schools in my area, we get this information from them.
Any attempt to take cannabis out of class B into class C we strongly
believe will undermine the very dynamic drug education programmes
which are now under way.
386. Would you say that more resources should
be put into prevention and enforcement as opposed to treatment?
(Mr Ogden) I think we have a lot of resources into
prevention now and that is what Drug Action Teams and the National
Drugs Strategy is all about, making sure that it is properly focussed
and sharply focussed. Prevention is not just about drug education,
prevention is about helping young people to achieve their potential.
It is about sport, it is about academic life, it is about culture,
it is about many things. If you pull that together you can prevent
people drifting into drug misuse. I do not think they need to
put more into prevention, there is a lot more going into it now.
There is a lot more going into treatment now. We have to get the
balance of education, enforcement and treatment absolutely right.
It is a three pronged attack and I think we are getting there.
387. I just wanted to ask Mr Paddick how he
felt about the current situation in Lambeth where possession of
a small amount of cannabis, as you have said, very clearly you
are not being arrested for but the supply is still in criminal
hands. Do you find that a satisfactory half way house or would
you personally or professionally, you could answer both ways if
you like, like to go a bit further?
(Mr Paddick) The difficulty, even around the reclassification
of cannabis, is the inadvertent signals that it might send where
people misinterpret it as either being decriminalised or the fact
that people think it is harmless, and clearly cannabis is not
harmless at all. You get into very difficult territory if you
start saying "Well, it is okay also to supply" because
the people who supply cannabis tend to supply all sorts of other
drugs as well, the hard drugs. It is very difficult then to make
a distinction between those dealers you deal with and those that
you do not. Yes, it does appear to be a very uncomfortable position
to be in where possession of small amounts is dealt with by means
of a warning where the drugs are confiscated, by no means are
we turning a blind eye to it but we are arresting and prosecuting
and charging people who have enough to supply other people with.
But I think you are then into a different order of magnitude of
the problem. Allowing police officers to use their discretion
in only warning people for possession of small amounts is one
thing, saying that you are not going to deal with people who supply
drugs is a completely different issue.
388. The argument, Mr Paddick, really is this.
To the extent that cannabis use has been relaxed in Lambeth, and
that is indeed the situation, arising from the previous question,
surely in so far as supply is in the hands of criminals, is that
not, in fact, increasing the scope for those criminals to supply
cannabis, leaving aside any other drug, let us concentrate for
the moment on cannabis, in the knowledge, for those who buy small
amounts for their own use, the fact is that there is no harm in
getting those drugs from such criminals?
(Mr Paddick) I would argue that the enforcement against
cannabis has not been relaxed and, indeed, I have given figures
that would tend to indicate that the police are enforcing more
the law against cannabis than they were before the pilot started.
A lot of it is probably because officers who did not want to tie
themselves up for hours in the police station dealing with paper
work, who used to turn a blind eye to it, are now actually acting
and confiscating the drug. I would not say that the law, in terms
of enforcement on the ground, has been relaxed.
389. Those who have a small amount of cannabis
in their possession in your area are not going to find themselves
(Mr Paddick) That is correct.
390. In effect, whichever way you want to explain
the situation, to the layman's eye it must seem de facto
at least it has been decriminalised to the extent it is only a
small possession of cannabis for their own use. You would not
really disagree with that, would you?
(Mr Paddick) No, I would not.
391. If someone wishes to obtain a small amount
of cannabis the only source of supply would be criminal, would
(Mr Paddick) Indeed.
392. They cannot get it anywhere else?
(Mr Paddick) Indeed, that is correct.
393. Therefore from the criminal's point of
viewI do not want to put words into your mouththe
extent that the criminal source is the only supply, clearly if
more people decide as a result of what is happening in your area
they want to use a small amount of cannabis that is more scope
for the criminal?
(Mr Paddick) Yes. Where I would disagree with you
is that the possession of a small amount of cannabis, whilst it
is de facto, as you say or people might put the interpretation
on it, that it has been in effect decriminalised, in practice
that is not the case. It is still a criminal offence and there
may still be circumstances where people find themselves in the
police station, and maybe even going to court, if they have got
a large amount or they have got a small amount in several different
packets, then we would probably charge them with straight possession
even though there is not sufficient to prove to the standard that
the Crown Prosecution Service would require of possession with
intent to supply. There is not a decriminalised possession of
small amount versus criminal supply, both are criminal, both are
dealt with by the police as criminal in Lambeth. But, yes, you
could say that some dealers might think that they could operate
more effectively in Lambeth because people might think that the
possession was lawful, in fact it is not, than outside of Lambeth.
To be quite honest with you, cannabis is so widely available,
including in places which you would be quite surprised at where
you could get hold of it, including some places not very far from
here, that I do not really think it is making too much of a difference
in Lambeth in terms of supply.
394. Why not put it all on a legitimate basis,
Mr Paddick? I understand, of course, the number of people who
go from cannabis to hard drugs and the rest of it but if you acceptperhaps
you do not but if you dothat quite a significant minority
of otherwise law abiding people use cannabis in small amounts,
why not accept the fact that they should be able to get their
source of supply on a legitimate basis and undermine criminality?
Would that not make sense or is that too simplistic a line of
what should happen?
(Mr Paddick) As a senior police officer I am instructed
to say that legalisation is a matter for politicians and not for
395. You are absolutely right.
(Mr Paddick) As an individual then I agree with you.
I think it provides a clear argument for clear education around
the real health problems associated with cannabis. A programme
of regulation, a programme of licensing would appear to be, if
we are starting with a blank piece of paper, where we would go
to in the way that we have with tobacco and alcohol. That is not
the situation that we are in and politicians have to be very careful
around the messages that are sent around going from a situation
where cannabis is illegal, and even is classified as a particular
class, and then reclassifying it or legalising it and the message
that sends to people in terms of what is the accepted picture
of its potential damage to individuals.
David Winnick: That is a very forthright and
honest answer, Mr Paddick. It is a very good answer which we will
keep very much, I am sure, in our minds when we come to our conclusions.
396. Commander Paddick, you say between four
and eight hours of an officer's time a day is saved as a result
of this pilot. I would be careful, if the Commissioner hears that
you may not get the resources if you have all this spare time
available. What are those officers doing? Are they the same officers
who will now deal with harder drugs? You have obviously got very
clear views on cannabis, do you have similar forthright views
on ecstasy, for example?
(Mr Paddick) Yes. I have to preface all my answers
by saying that Andy Hayman, who spoke to you earlier, is the spokesperson
for the Association of Chief Police Officers, and I am a member
of the Association of Chief Police Officers.
397. Yes. What we have discovered during the
course of this inquiry so far is a lot of police officers hold
quite different views. We need to smoke out the views of those
who are in the front line, as it were, and we would be obliged
(Mr Paddick) If you insist.
398. We understand the subtlety of what you
(Mr Paddick) My view is that there are a whole range
of people who buy drugs, not just cannabis, but even cocaine and
ecstasy, who buy those drugs with money that they have earned
legitimately. They use a small amount of these drugs, a lot of
them just at weekends. It has no adverse effect on the rest of
the people they are with either in terms of the people that they
socialise with or the wider community. They go back to work on
Monday morning and are unaffected for the rest of the week. In
terms of my prioritisation of what in a sense I deal with as an
operational police officer, then they are low down on my priority
list. Those people who are addicted to particularly crack cocaine
and heroin, who cannot do anything other than think about where
their next fix is coming from and who go out and commit terrible
crimes against other people in my community in order to buy those
drugs, they are my priority, not necessarily to lock them up and
throw away the key but certainly to take them off the street and
get them into treatment would be, I think, the most effective
solution. Also those drug suppliers who encourage those people
who have what I have referred to before as addictive personalities,
who target those individuals and sell drugs to them in order to
get them hooked in order to get their own income stream going,
they are the people that I need to target, they are the people
that I need to concentrate my scarce resources on.
399. Are they the same officers?
(Mr Paddick) It would be the same officers. We have
a particularly effective and very heroic town centre patrol who
are officers in uniform who patrol Brixton town centre. They spend
most of their time playing cat and mouse with these dealers, or
at least the dealers' operatives who work on the streets of Brixton,
who are trying to sell and trying to get people hooked on to crack
cocain and heroin. It is the same officers who before if they
had come across a small amount of cannabis during one of these
stop and search operations would have arrested that individual
and spent the next four to six hours in the police station. Now
they deal with it within an hour and then they are back out on
the street and looking for, as they were before, they were always
looking for hard drugs but sometimes they found cannabis, they
are back out there and they are making life difficult for those
class A drug dealers who are preying on the victims of this whole
business who is the chaotic drug user.