Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460
TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2001
460. What do you say to Mr Wilkinson who says
that by legalising heroin and making it available in a regulated
way you can collapse a fair share of the criminal drug market?
(Mr Ogden) I disagree entirely. Would you legalise
it for everybody? Would you legalise it for all ages? Who would
actually supply it? There is no point in that.
461. The argument is that a percentage, quite
a large percentage, of crime is committed by people funding a
habit. Do you accept that?
(Mr Ogden) I would agree with that. We have just moved
our figure of 65 per cent and reassessed it to 76 per cent following
462. So you think it is as high as that?
(Mr Ogden) Yes.
463. So if decriminalisation or legalisation
could collapse the price and, therefore, the market, that would
surely deal a blow to that degree of crime, would it not?
(Mr Ogden) So would very effective treatment. So does
vigorous arrest referral schemes. So does properly structured
Drug Treatment and Testing Orders. So does prison schemes.
464. Perhaps the gap between you and Mr Wilkinson
is not as large as it appears to be. I think Mr Wilkinsonhe
can speak for himselfagrees with you about the need for
better education, better treatment, I think everybody is agreed
about that, but I think his argument is by itself that clearly
is not going to make a sufficient impact. Have I got that right?
(Mr Wilkinson) Yes, that is right, Chairman.
465. Thank you.
(Mr Ogden) We think that the National Strategy can
work. We think that it can significantly reduce the number of
heroin users in this country. By saying we are going to legalise
it and make it available at various outlets that is actually throwing
in the sponge and giving up on the national strategy, which we
did not even have in this country until 1995 under the previous
Government's Tackling Drugs Together.
466. At what stage do you think it would be
fair to evaluate the National Drugs Strategy?
(Mr Ogden) It needs to be evaluated on a yearly basis
by more rapid audits and more effective national evaluation, not
evaluation that takes four years to produce, more rapid audits
of how we are doing. Certainly I think the Drugs Directorate,
which is now in the Home Office, is actually doing that moving
towards the 2001-02 Spending Review. Probably you need to reconvene
this Committee every two years to see how it is going. I do stress,
we have got to make up for 30 years of waste when there was no
drugs strategy at all until 1995 when the Drug Action Teams were
first formed. That was only a three year strategy, this is a ten
467. Are you saying that we should wait to the
end of the ten years before making any changes in the framework?
(Mr Ogden) No. It should be constantly reviewed, as
this Committee is doing now, as indeed the Drug Directorate at
the Home Office is doing now. Any strategy needs change as it
goes along but not change as drastic as legalisation of any drugs
because that really is throwing in the sponge on something we
have not given a proper chance to.
Chairman: Thank you very much, gentlemen.