Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda


Submitted by the National Crime Squad

  The National Crime Squad has the mandate to deal with serious and organised crime and our investigative ethos is to pursue the criminal group, not the crime. We are confident that investigations that focus on securing the prosecution of Organised Criminals, no matter what the offence, offers the best route to a satisfactory outcome and disruption of criminality at the highest level.

  It is a fact that organised criminals trade in a range of commodities to facilitate their wealth creation and enhance their criminal reputations and status. Class A and B drugs are currently the favoured trading currency of many of these groups. 64 per cent of the National Crime Squad's current activity profile includes intelligence of trading in Class A drugs and 66 per cent of our arrests result in prosecutions for trafficking in Class A drugs. Our focus here is largely driven by the 10 year UK Drugs Strategy.

  Our research suggests that organised crime commodity selection and the manner in which it is traded is based on a criminal business case which weighs risks and benefits. Trafficking narcotics is subject to a number of possible threats ranging from the detection and prosecution by law enforcement agencies to violent exchanges with competitors, customers and suppliers. Successful trading is accompanied and complemented, by debt enforcement and expansion into the territory of other groups, often resulting in violent conflict. The list of threats is by no means exhaustive.

  Response to a perceived increase in threat might range from adopting anti-surveillance measures, through to the carrying and use of firearms during periods of high risk. Eventually if trading drugs is "risk assessed" by the criminal group as unacceptably hazardous they have shown that they will divert to dealing in other commodities and take to operating in other business areas. This flexibility is also exercised when opportunities outside their usual trading environment are identified. Examples of this can be seen as Turkish heroin traffickers divert their activities to "people smuggling", changing the commodity whilst utilising existing routes, structures and contacts.

  The activities of organised crime groups are determined by the perceived business opportunities for profit, balanced against the identified risks. At this time those opportunities outweigh the risks ensuring the continued interest of these groups in this area of business. If for any reason the opportunities afforded by the trade in class A and B drugs were removed these groups have shown that they are unlikely to retire from organised criminality.

  In response to the specific questions:

    (a)  does drugs policy work?

  Our experience is that we are not struggling to find appropriate trafficking networks to investigate, therefore the drugs business is still thriving. We see no evidence of declining demand, as they recognise we focus on a particular state of the UK Drugs Strategy.

    (b)  what would be the effect of decriminalisation on

  (i)  on availability and demand?

  We feel this would be an incentive to existing and potential traffickers to seek to grow the market place without fear of sanction. The demand base would expand and the culture of acceptance spiral out of control. New and highly synthetic products are the future market dominates. Such decriminalisation would encourage a reduction.

  (ii)  on drug-related deaths?

  It is likely to herald an increase in what must become a larger marketplace both in those who abuse narcotics to excess or in circumstances that lead to theirs or others deaths. Equally to decriminalise does not mean to remove criminal ownership. Turf wars will likely increase and "drug-related deaths" increase in terms of executions of even "firefights".

  (iii)  Crime?

  Normal incomes cannot fund drug habits, only crime can. We do not feel it likely that the marketplace will shrink should decriminalisation take place. Decriminalising cannabis or other narcotics will not take the money out of the criminal business equation. Drug traders will always market multi-commodities and that means they will employ every tactic up to coercion to secure new markets. Partial de-criminalisation is equally unlikely to defuse the business area.

  (c)  The British Drug Survey would indicate that within the "caution" system already open to law enforcement there is de facto de-criminalisation for personal use drugs, particularly cannabis. It has been so for some years and seems (neither?) to encourage the market, nor discourage. There is no easy, practical alternative. To decriminalise all or part of this market would not, in our view, decrease abuse. Traders who sell cannabis also tend to sell the whole range of narcotics and user progression is probably inevitable.

  The ten year National Strategy is three years old and to reach its targets will be unlikely. Much good work has gone on in the law enforcement environment to join together effectively to "reduce availability".

  More is required. Law enforcement is a lumbering giant in need of help to focus on this issue. We are convinced that to be as successful as required, we must:

    —  Pressure the drugs market at every opportunity and sustain it.

    —  Get more criminal money out of the system—it represents the fuel in the engine.

  The justice process must have the tools to snip drug traders money of our pockets. This needs to be "draconian", punishing process. Judges are reluctant to seize homes and businesses, cars, personal property and savings. Proceeds of crime legislation will assist, but not enough.

  The maxim must be: Sell drugs = Lose everything

  There is plenty of evidence that traffickers at every level continue, even in prison, to conduct their criminal business.

  Law enforcement, particularly at territorial level, has many priorities placed upon it as it must have the resource to address the drug market aggressively and effectively. We will need to find ways of delivering that consistency of pressure at territorial (level one and two Nation Intelligence Model) policing level.

September 2001

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