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
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
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.