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Mr. Clarke: I understand the point that my hon. Friend makes, but his survey illustrates that this is a real issue. Let me give another example. A couple of years ago, an Opposition Member asked me to meet the head of a big secondary school in his rural constituency. That head said that he shared precisely these concerns about drug dealers operating in school environs. We must be very clear that that is not an acceptable way to behave. Similarly, where a dealer uses a person under the age of 18 as a courier for drugs or drugs money, that should also be regarded as an aggravation of the offence.
Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): I understand that aggravated supply is covered by the current arrangements in the courts, in that the judge can already take aggravated circumstances into consideration, so why does my right hon. Friend believe that clause 1 is so necessary?
Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is right that a judge can take aggravated circumstances into account, but they do not include the particular aggravations dealt with in the Bill. That is why it is so important for us to set out the provision in the Bill.
Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that the best way to reduce demand for drugs among school-age children is to change the style and content of education in schools away from the provision of information and harm reduction to drug prevention?
I agree, but I can say, on the basis of my experience, that the work done in schools on personal and health education, which includes sex and drug education, is outstanding and it works in precisely the way that the hon. Lady highlighted. One of my aims in our drugs strategy, working in collaboration with the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, is precisely to develop and enhance the sort of work that will inhibit
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drug abuse by young people. I believe that that is one of the main reasons why the incidence of drug abuse among young people has gone down.
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): To follow up some of the points made by Labour Members, if we accept that we are dealing with a mischief that requires solution and that a statement of aggravation will be relevant to the determination of a sentence, would it not be sensible to make it mandatory for the sentencing judge to specify that portion of the sentence that is attributable to the aggravation?
Mr. Clarke: That is the sort of detail that we can consider further in Committee and I can give a commitment that we will consider that point. However, I do not immediately see the benefit that would arise from that approach. What we are trying to establish is that aspects of drug dealing and drug activityfor example, carrying out such activities in the vicinity of a schoolwill aggravate the offence, thereby inviting a larger penalty for so doing. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that a particular judicial device may be appropriate, we can certainly debate it in Committee and take the matter forward.
Clause 2 establishes a presumption of intent to supply where the defendant is in possession of a particular amount of a controlled drug. Where the presumption applies, a court or jury must assume that the defendant intended to supply the drug. That is to say, it is not a matter of so-called personal use. The particular level will vary from drug to drug and will be prescribed in regulations, which will need to be approved by a resolution of both Houses, based on the advice of the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs. The purpose of the clause is self-evidentthat it is important to clarify the point at which the quantity of drugs in a person's possession becomes above and beyond that reasonably held for personal use.
Clauses 3 to 6 and 8 give the police and the courts powers to tackle drug dealers who swallow or conceal drugs on their bodies to evade arrest. Once again, the provision deals with a straightforward and clear point. Some people such as drug dealers seek, for obvious reasons, to conceal the evidence of their crimes and they take a number of steps to do that. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 allows for intimate search, and the consent of the detainee is not required under the Act. Intimate searches must be undertaken by a registered medical practitioner or nurse and will not normally be undertaken without the suspect's consent. Some suspects withhold consent to evade detection.
Clauses 5 and 6 enable a police officer to authorise an X-ray or ultrasound scan of a person arrested and suspected of swallowing a class A drug. The court and jury will be entitled to draw inferences where consent to search, X-ray or ultrasound is refused without good cause.
Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con):
I hope that the Secretary of State will not mind pressing the rewind button, but I want to go back over important territory that he has covered already. He has just described clause 2, which is about strengthening the legal position. Many schools now have zero-tolerance policies in respect of drugs, but in a constituency case of mine the anecdotal
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evidence in respect of quantity suggested to the head teacher that the child concerned intended to supply drugs. What discussions has the right hon. Gentleman had, or intend to have, with the Secretary of State for Education and Skills about the guidance that might be issued to schools that are nervous about their legal position but anxious to secure help for offenders and protect the other children in the school?
Mr. Clarke: Even on rewind, the hon. Gentleman puts his finger on a very important point. Since I became Home Secretary, I have not had a bilateral meeting with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills. However, when I was Secretary of State for Education and Skills, I did have such a meeting with my colleague, the former Home Secretary. In addition, other ministerial colleagues and officials are discussing these matters and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, between us, we will provide guidance that is clear and agreed across Government. In that way, the head teacher in the case that he described would not have conflicting guidance coming from the Home Office, the Department for Education and Skills and various other people. Our unified guidance will better enable head teachers to make the necessary judgments in such cases.
Clause 8 gives the court power to remand a suspect in police custody for up to 192 hours after charging to allow time for evidence to pass through the body. That is a simple consequence of the change that I set out earlier.
I turn now to treatment and how we will ensure that the criminal justice system deals properly with the core problem. Clause 7 amends the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to extend the existing power to test for specified class A drugs on charge and provides that such a test can be carried out on arrest. That will give police the discretionary power to test people arrested for those trigger offences most closely associated with class A drug misuse. Where the police, at least at the level of police inspector, have reasonable grounds to suspect that class A drugs were a factor in an offence, they will also be able to test in respect of any other offence.
We believe that that is central to helping identify drug abusers at an earlier stage of their contact with the criminal justice systemthat is, on arrest rather than at charge. In that way, they could be steered into treatment at the earliest possible moment. The power will apply to people aged 18 and over, but provision exists for the age to be changed through secondary legislation, in line with current provisions for testing on charge. Testing on charge has been shown to work well in conjunction with the arrest, referral and treatment services and testing on arrest will ensure that drug misusers not charged with an offence are nevertheless identified and directed to treatment.
Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab):
My right hon. Friend mentioned the talks that he hopes to have with the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, but will he say something about the talks that he has had with the Secretary of State for Health? If we are to ensure that people are directed to treatment, it is essential that every constituency in the country can provide that. I am worried that people currently in
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prison may not be willing to accept treatment. Will he say how we can ensure that people are matched to treatment and that they get the support and health provision that they need?
Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is correct. She will know that the relationship between me, as Home Secretary, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health is institutionally very close in this matter. The National Treatment Agency is an NHS body, but it is responsible both to me and to the Secretary of State for Health. The key issue for the agency is to build the capacity to which my hon. Friend referred in communities up and down the country. Since I became Home Secretary, I have not had a bilateral meeting with the Secretary of State for Health, although I will have one shortly. However, I and my colleagues have participated in a full presentation and discussion of the way in which, over the past two or three years, the NTA has been able to build up the availability of treatment. That is one of the factors behind the figure that I mentioned earlier for the reduction in waiting times for particular forms of treatment. The truth is that although we have made some good progress, there is still a long way to go. However, I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that we are committed to reaching that point.
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