Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda


Submitted by David Raynes


  David Raynes is a self employed Management & Security Consultant working in the Public & Private sectors. He retired from full time public service in June 2000 after 37 years in law enforcement with HM Customs & Excise, a total of 25 of those years was spent in the Investigation Service of Customs. He retired as an Assistant Chief Investigation Officer. He also served during the 1990s as an internal public sector management consultant working, within Customs, in the Cabinet Office Efficiency Unit and in the Northern Ireland Office where he carried out two consultancy projects concerned with the management of the RUC and the expected "peace dividend". He has had a long-standing professional interest in substance abuse through his work dealing with drug and particularly heroin & cocaine trafficking from the late 1960s. In the 1970s he was a visiting speaker to the "American University in London" where he was introduced to the concept of full legalisation of all drugs through his cooperation, at the University, with the US based arch-legaliser and founding father of that movement, Professor Arnold Trebach with whom he debated frequently but rarely agreed! He has made a particular study of the old "British System" for prescription of maintenance heroin. He has travelled widely, including, while on heroin smuggling enquiries, Thailand and most recently (1998) the Tribal Areas of Pakistan, so in the news now for other reasons. In Autumn 2000 he had a lead letter published in the Times on legalisation of cannabis and on drug trafficking and drugs criminality generally. Through that letter he gained introduction to The National Drug Prevention Alliance (NDPA) and later agreed to become an Executive Councillor to that body. Like the NDPA he supports primary prevention as a part of substance abuse control policy. In the last twelve months he has met Keith Helliwell, and attended the Cleveland Police Authority and the Association of Chief Police Officers Drugs Conferences. He has debated on radio, television and at Westminster Central Hall with such personalities as Peter Lilley MP, Brian Idden MP, Keith Wilkinson (ex-Chief Constable of Gwent) and others, on the merits of drug decriminalisation/legalisation. He has a wide range of international contacts within this field of drug policy. He is prepared to give oral evidence to the Committee or be questioned by them on this paper or any other associated issue.

  2.  For reasons of the required brevity this paper focuses on four issues:

    —  1.  Legalisation/Decriminalisation of Drugs particularly Cannabis. The Dealing Recommendation (20) of the Police Foundation report.

    —  2.  Adverse effects on the 10-year strategy of the decision that Customs should not target Cannabis trafficking and the "Lambeth Experiment".

    —  3.  Maintenance Heroin and Methadone-Links to crime reduction.

    —  4.  "Harm reduction", the Trojan horse of drugs policy?


  The writer identifies the pressure for change here as coming from a small but articulate minority. The most articulate have a metropolitan base and are often connected with the media. They are highly manipulative and in the opinion of the writer are in many cases involved in "media advocacy". They are unrepresentative of society as a whole. In almost all cases they fail to view substance abuse as a damaging influence on society, and, as a continuum, which starts with tobacco & alcohol and proceeds through cannabis and ecstasy to other substances of abuse. The writer does not believe and there is no evidence, that this continuum is casual but he does believe, and this is borne out by the research, that abuse of any substance is more likely to lead to abuse of others. In that context then the writer does not accept that there is any case at all for decriminalisation of cannabis, or for downgrading cannabis to Class C. That is not to say that first (possession) offences of cannabis or any other drug should not be treated other than by criminal proceedings. (Of which more later). In the writer's opinion after analysing the scientific evidence, there is a good argument that lifetime regular use of cannabis is more damaging to physical and mental health than heroin use with clean supply and clean needles. This writer takes as his core texts on Cannabis:

  3.1  Cannabis: a health perspective and research agenda. World Health Organisation 1997. This document was over two years in preparation, has extensive scientific references and had over 100 external reviewers.

  3.2  Adverse Health Consequences of Cannabis Use. By Jan Ramstrom National Institute of Public Health Sweden. Again, another well referenced bringing together of sources and comment.

  3.3  CANNABIS. Evidence submitted to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science & Technology, Sub-Committee 1. By Mary D Brett BSc. 1998. (An educationalist and high school teacher).

  3.4  There is no point in this writer reiterating all or any of the physical and particularly mental, harm that cannabis can cause, which is manifested in these three documents. In the writers view, if the Committee is inclined to say anything at all about Cannabis all Members should have read all three of these documents in their entirety-not just in extract. Your secretariat should be able to obtain them.

  3.5  The Committee will no doubt be overwhelmed by evidence proposing (a) the relative innocence of cannabis or suggesting that (b) the illegality causes more harm than the substance. It will also be proposed (c) that decriminalising or legalising Cannabis will take users out of the reach of dealers who will try to sell users other substances. This last is sadly nonsense, some of it proposed by people in, or recently from, law enforcement, who ought to know better.

  3.6  As far as point (a) is concerned. As a deterrent to using cannabis or cutting existing use, concerns about physical or mental health damage always rank (rightly) at the top of any survey, but parental and societal disapproval follows very closely as an influencing factor on behaviour. Indeed since cannabis after tobacco is the main gateway to wider substance abuse, detection and early intervention into what may become a lifetime of such abuse, can only effectively be carried out if the criminality of cannabis possession, use and dealing is maintained at current levels.

  3.7  As for suggestion (c) above. The proponents of this theory usually suggest that users get their supply from dealers who typically supply other, so called, harder drugs. Nothing could be further from the truth. At Cannabis user-level, supply is typically by friends, largely or often, not for profit, an increasing quantity being home grown. Most low-level users never come into contact with the wholesale dealers or importers who traffic in other substances. This argument is specious and the writer having been involved in this subject for most of his working life, is in a position to know. Retired Chief Constables who have had little to do with the drugs market, MPs or others members of the great and good, are emphatically not.

3.8 What action can be taken falling short of decriminalisation?

  The writer will be the first to agree that to give a young or first time user a criminal record for possession lacks proportionality. Although primary prevention does work for many young people, some youngsters will always experiment with tobacco, cannabis and other drugs and will abuse alcohol. The writer suggests a new scheme. New or first time drugs offenders (users only) under a certain age (perhaps 24) should receive a caution and "points allocation", of resources permit, compulsory attendance at an educational drugs class on a Friday and Saturday evening would be indicated, after a second offence such attendance would be compulsory. After a third offence criminal proceedings would be an option. Ideally, any such scheme would have links with other substances and offences such as drunkenness in a public place.

  3.9  The writer strongly opposes Recommendation 20 in the Police Foundation Report (about a defence of dealing to small social groups), as not being in the public interest. The law is complicated enough; this muddying of the waters would encourage this method of dealing and supply (which is anyway substantial in effect particularly for cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine). The proposed change would prolong legal argument to the benefit only of the legal profession. Dealing in or for a small group is dealing. After criminal charge this type of dealing can be dealt with by way of mitigation, the courts have sufficient powers to assess it and to make judgements. The suggestion that the proposal should apply to drugs of Class B and below and not Class A, exemplifies the intellectual barrenness of much of the Foundation thinking.


  In the autumn of 1999 HM Customs promulgated to the service the monumental decision that henceforward Customs would not "Target" major Cannabis trafficking. It was alleged to staff (the matter was concealed from the public) that this was part of the government drug strategy and was a decision taken in order to attack the supply targets for Class A drugs more effectively. It was not suggested that cannabis traffickers would not be dealt with if found accidentally but that no offensive or disruption action before the event would normally be contemplated. The writer fundamentally disagreed with this policy (as did most knowledgeable practitioners within the service) and it led to his asking to leave the service slightly early. It has transpired since then that Customs is defending the decision by saying it was taken by the Cabinet Office Committee "CIDA", (Concerted Inter-Agency Drugs Action), which contains representatives or the heads of MI6, MI5, Customs Investigation Service, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the National Crime Squad and the Association of Chief Police Officers plus, the Permanent Under-Secretaries of the Home Office, Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence.

  4.1  The practical effect of this decision is that the UK has been flooded with cannabis in a way that had hitherto been impossible, the price has dropped to its lowest level ever and the law (which arguably should be changed by Parliament not administrative action) has been made to look an ass. The flood of cannabis has also in the opinion of the writer increased the pressure for decriminalisation or legalisation. This action, effectively promoting cannabis consumption, was not publicly acknowledged by government, more worryingly it may not have been fully understood.

  4.2  The writer believes that this Committee (CIDA) failed most lamentably to take a holistic view of the drugs market in the UK and particularly the linkage between abuse of one substance and another. By undermining the will of Parliament this action has fed substance abuse in an extraordinary way. It is worth noting that not even in Holland has such extraordinary action been taken and that the Dutch have long since recognised the folly of doing nothing about cannabis. Indeed their education programme is now primarily directed against it.

  4.3  The writer has had the opportunity to discuss the Customs decision with Keith Helliwell. Mr Helliwell denied to the writer that he had understood exactly how far Customs had gone with this policy and insisted that it is not what he had intended! He had wanted increased concentration on Class A drugs, (but of course, that was always Customs policy well before the role of "Czar" was invented).

  4.4  Customs action and the flood of cannabis UK wide, indirectly fed through to the "Lambeth Experiment". While Police use of discretion is lawful and has gone on for years, across a wide range of offences. Importantly, there was no need at all to announce the use of it so publicly. The writer is very suspicious of the motives of those behind the announcement, coming as it did the day before a "cannabis march". The advertising of this policy has added to mixed messages for the young and was very unwise. The Committee should say that, and should I criticise the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. It is no task of the Police to make law or DELIBERATELY to undermine existing law in public. If they wish they should advise on it in private.

  4.5  The writer believes that the easy availability of cannabis thus promoted and advertised by administrative action, has seriously undermined the demand reduction targets of the strategy and will subliminally have the effect of promoting wider substance abuse.


  Others will tell the Committee that the maintenance of addicts on heroin or methadone at public expense will reduce crime. You will also be told that it is perfectly possible for some individuals to stay on heroin for a lifetime without obvious effect. There is no doubt both statements are true to some extent. The writer has studied the UK wide heroin market and was watching the scene in the 1960s when the UK had the "British System" of maintenance heroin; he also debated this with Professor Trebach. There is no doubt that through lack of tight supervision heroin leaked from official prescription into the illegal market and that led to the system coming into disrepute and being largely abandoned. Importantly, although it often goes unrecognised now, there was an illegal and parallel market supplied from diverted NHS supplies and at that time from smuggled Chinese heroin. Nevertheless the UK currently has a substantial number of doctors (around 100) with licences to prescribe heroin under closely monitored conditions. Only around a dozen doctors regularly so prescribe. There is no apparent appetite within the medical profession for further substantial provision. Any large-scale provision at public expense would, because of the now recognised need for supervision during administration, (to prevent leakage to the illegal market), entail a massive move of resources from the NHS. It would also require a change in public opinion. In the writer's observation there is support for heroin or methadone maintenance during a programme designed to get users free of addiction. There is no general support for open-ended maintenance at public expense forever. And it that is done for heroin why not for alcohol?

  5.1  The writer points out that in Holland a country generally regarded as more liberal than the UK in these matters, the provision of maintenance heroin is done under very strictly controlled conditions indeed, with a minimum age limit, and two recognised previous efforts to become free of addiction. The provision is time-limited and supply is gradually reduced. In the writer's opinion the UK should go no further. John Strang and others argue for more money to allow more intravenous methadone treatment, that being three to four times as expensive as oral treatment. The argument he uses that addicts get more of a kick from that and will engage more readily with treatment are not in the writers opinion convincing, and should be resisted. Better that there are more oral treatments than less intravenous treatments feeding addictive behaviour through Official supply.


  The Committee will come under a great deal of pressure to recommend for further consideration "harm reduction" as a method of dealing with substance abuse. A key proponent of this strategy particularly among the young, employed, night-clubbing set, is Professor Howard Parker of Manchester University, who the writer heard speak at this year's ACPO drugs conference.

  6.1  There are two kinds of "harm reduction" that which concerns addicts and users and deals with other health issues, eg. clean needles (needle exchange), hepatitis injections etc (to which there is no logical objection) and the kind which promotes substance abuse as a "choice" and "lifestyle option" of equal validity and without giving or making moral judgements. The most damaging material seen by the writer is some of that produced by "Lifeline", the Manchester-based charity which often fails wholeheartedly to discourage use, and, through cartoons and comic interpretations of the issues, promotes the general idea that the worst thing about drugs is "getting caught". The Committee should beware of the people who have infiltrated the drugs charity industry who have a barely concealed agenda. They are at all levels in many of the drug charities.

  6.2  In respect of Professor Parker's suggestion, the extreme example of that is drug-testing stations outside nightclubs as is said to happen in Holland. (Although in fairness, the writer did not hear the Professor suggest exactly that). A moments thought will tell the Committee that if those sort of resources are to be spent supporting drug taking, the same resources applied to prevention and disruption of such drug taking inside and outside the clubs will have greater impact. The best form of "harm-reduction is prevention. The Committee will be told this does not work. There is an industry of people out there that has no interest in it working; they make their living from it not working. The Committee should beware.


  Winning totally the so called "war on drugs" is not possible, not least because there are powerful advocates of substance abuse who proselytise about it, presenting it as an alternative lifestyle with little danger. There are always new generations coming along ready to be influenced and ready to experiment, some will always do so. If however the real objective of drugs policy is to reduce lifetime substance abuse and the damage of illegal drugs, it succeeds massively, less than 5 per cent of people abuse illegal drugs for a lifetime.

  7.1  A recent study (British Crime Survey), suggests that the total UK illegal drug market is worth only £6.5 Billion. This is a surprisingly small amount compared to the UK markets in tobacco and alcohol. Although things are worse than they were in the 60s and 70s, the policy is working and is containing matters. But the rather silly decisions on cannabis will take their toll and ground will need to be recovered. Changes in lifestyle values can only be made over a long period and after attacking the issue on many fronts. The minimum we should hope for is containment. Use of currently illegal drugs (and use/abuse of some legal ones) is not necessary to a happy, healthy and contented lifestyle. Any message from the Committee, which adds to the confusion and to the mixed messages described earlier, should be very carefully thought through indeed, lest the Committee aggravate the problem.

September 2001

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