Should ecstasy users be treated more leniently as the police suggest

01:00 Wed 28th Nov 2001 |

asks Su Smith:

A. It's estimated that half a million people in the UK take ecstasy, a class-A drug, each weekend. However, ecstasy is controversial because of high-profile deaths of young people, such as Leah Betts, after taking the drug.

Q. So, who wants to treat users more leniently
The Metropolitan Police: it has become the first police force in the UK to relax its attitude to ecstasy possession - in the London borough of Lambeth.

Q. Isn't that where cannabis first stopped being an arrestable offence
Yes. Lambeth's senior police officer, Commander Brian Paddick, pioneered the scheme where police warned, rather than arrested, people for cannabis possession.

Q. And now he's at it with ecstasy
Well, that's one way of putting it. Mr Paddick told the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that weekend drug-users who took small amounts of cocaine and ecstasy were 'low down my priority list...if I felt my officers were going into nightclubs looking for people who were in possession of ecstasy then I would say to them, and I would say publicly, that they were wasting valuable police resources.'

Q. Do other police forces agree with him
Not necessarily. In fact, shortly after making his report to the Select Committee, Mr Paddick got a ticking off from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir John Stevens, for suggesting that officers were not interested in arresting people who use class-A drugs.
However, the spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said chief constables backed the downgrading of ecstasy from a Class-A drug to the lower priority Class B.

Q. Isn't ecstasy a dangerous drug
While confirming that ecstasy is a dangerous drug, Mr Paddick believes that people use a small amount at the weekends, and there is no adverse effect on the community. The drugs are bought with money they've earned, taking them doesn't hurt anyone else, and those taking them go back to work on a Monday morning and are unaffected for the rest of the week.

His concern is for things which cause real harm to the community.

Q. Such as
Catching crack and heroin addicts, who commit most drug-related crimes.

Q. What would happen if ecstasy were downgraded to a class-B drug
The maximum jail term would drop from seven to five years for possession and from a life sentence to 14 years for dealing.

Q. What does the Government say
A Home Office spokeswoman said there were no plans to reclassify ecstasy and said local commanders had to decide which areas were priorities.

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