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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 13:43 GMT
Police chief rebuked over drug remarks
An estimated two million young people use ecstasy
One of London's senior police officers has been rebuked by the head of the force for saying arresting people for using ecstasy was "low" on his priority list.

Brian Paddick, a commander with the Metropolitan Police, made the comments to a committee of MPs.

But Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens has now rebuked him and made it clear the remarks were not the view of the force.

Mr Paddick - who is in charge of piloting a new policy on cannabis in Brixton - said he regretted the comments have been reported out of context.

The Commissioner has reminded Commander Paddick that he is expected to follow and implement the Met's policy in relation to Class A drugs

Metropolitan Police

He had told the commons committee: "My view is that there are a whole range of people who buy drugs - not just cannabis but even cocaine and ecstasy - with money they have earned legitimately.

"They use a small amount of this drug, a lot of them just at weekends.

"It has no adverse effect on the rest of the people that they are with, whether this is the people they socialise with or the rest of the community.

"In terms of prioritisation, they are low down on my priority list."

'Personal View'

But the Metropolitan Police issued a statement saying: "The Commissioner has reminded Commander Paddick that he is expected to follow and implement the Met's policy in relation to Class A drugs and Commander Paddick accepts that."

Mr Paddick later said: "I made it clear to the Select Committee that this was my personal view.

"I regret that my comments have been reported out of the context in which they were given and I am absolutely committed to enforcing Met Police drugs policy in Lambeth."

The original comments were given at a Commons Home Affairs Select Committee looking into current drug laws.

Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Andy Hayman told the MPs his force would support an easing of the ecstasy laws "if medical and scientific evidence suggests it".

Mr Hayman also backed the creation of "shooting galleries" where addicts could legally inject heroin.

leah betts
Ecstasy has claimed dozens of lives
Chief Supt Kevin Morris, president of the Superintendents' Association, said he would also support shooting galleries if they operated under "carefully controlled conditions".

Janet Betts, who lost her daughter Leah to ecstasy six years ago, was furious about the comments.

She said: "This is unbelievable. I'm sick of senior police officers who are just worried about balancing their books.

"They don't give a stuff about the kids on the street."

Drugs law

"There's no way they should reclassify ecstasy, absolutely no way. It is a totally unpredictable drug and the potential for harm is very great."

But Danny Kushlick, director of drugs reform group Transform, was optimistic that the police chiefs' views showed that the will existed for change.

He said: "What is glaring now is the lack of political courage in government to admit that prohibition has failed."

Drugs laws have been back in the spotlight since the Home Office announced plans to reclassify cannabis as a class C drug last month, although Home Secretary David Blunkett has already ruled out any change on ecstasy.

See also:

20 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Charity calls for 'relaxed' drug laws
24 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Cannabis laws to be relaxed
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