Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Commander Brian Paddick, Metropolitan Police Service

  1.  The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, Sir John Stevens, has agreed to a pilot scheme in the London Borough of Lambeth only whereby those found by the police to be in possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use are not arrested but warned for the offence. The pilot is currently running for six months from 1 July until 31 December 2001.

  2.  Those found in possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use have the drug confiscated by the police officer, who issues a warning. The person is invited to sign for the drugs and the officer, if alone, calls for another officer to verify the nature and quantity of drugs seized. The drugs are checked by a supervisor at the station before being deposited and retained for six months prior to destruction.

  3.  The officer records the personal details of the person stopped at the time and these are subsequently transferred to a computer database at the main police station at Brixton. During the pilot, the records are kept locally only. The officer also completes a brief crime report. Whilst subsequent warnings are possible without the individual being liable to arrest, to date no one has been warned more than once during the pilot scheme. Up to 30 September 2001, 218 people had been warned.

  4.  In the case of a young person being found with cannabis, a copy of the warning form is faxed to the Manager of Lambeth Youth Offender Team, who writes to the parents in every case. The circumstances are explained in the letter and the offer of support and counselling are made. Up to 30 September 2001, 21 young people had been warned under the pilot scheme.

  5.  Police officers use their discretion as to whether the amount is "a small amount" and whether the cannabis is "for personal use". More than half a dozen wraps or small packets of cannabis require the person stopped to give a plausible explanation as to why the drugs are being carried in that form if they are for personal use only. The supervisor to whom the drugs must be presented on arrival at the police station audits the decision.

  6.  Metropolitan Police Service consultants are undertaking an on-going analysis of the impact of the pilot scheme. A steering group consisting of academics, researchers and community representatives advises the consultants on what should be included in their analysis. Whilst detailed results are not yet available, it is anticipated that between four to eight hours of police time are saved each time the matter is dealt with by way of warning compared with arrest. The police officer time saved can be used to combat those crimes of much greater concern to the community such as dealing in hard drugs, robbery and burglary.

  7.  In the similar period last year in Lambeth, from 1 July 2000 until 30 September 2000, 162 people were arrested for possession of cannabis offences. Of these only 65 were charged whilst the others were cautioned or no action was taken. Of those charged, most received either a small fine or a conditional discharge for the offence at court.

  8.  The pilot provides a means by which officers can deal with cannabis offences in a less bureaucratic and faster way. It also has the practical effect of decriminalising the offence in those cases where the officer does not proceed by means of arrest.

  9.  The power of arrest police officers have under the Misuse of Drugs Act is written in terms that a police officer may arrest a person in possession of cannabis. The pilot scheme allows police officers to use the discretion given to them under legislation to arrest or not arrest. In the same way, officers use their discretion to arrest or not arrest those guilty of other minor offences such as drunkenness, begging and minor assault.

October 2001

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