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Saturday, 15 December, 2001, 14:43 GMT
Police body backs drugs law review
A police authority in Wales has backed a senior officer's call for a Royal Commission into the possibility of legalising all drugs.

Members of the governing body of North Wales Police have accepted the view of the force's chief Constable, Richard Brunstrom, that Britain is losing the so-called war against the illicit drugs trade.

Following his address to the police authority on Friday, Mr Brunstrom said his force already "continues to punch above its weight" within the existing drugs laws but he believes there should be a review of how the drugs problem can be tackled.

Cannabis cigarette being rolled
Drugs policy has failed, says Mr Brunstrom

"We have got sufficient evidence now - four years into our current strategy - to show that the main plank of it - trying to control drugs availability and supply is not working," he told BBC Wales.

"Drugs are freely available and the consequences of that in health, crime and societal terms are really quite frightening.

"It's the right time to consider other options as well."

Mr Brunstrom said there is no particularly sound logic to the pattern of proscription created by Britain's 1971 drugs legislation.

But he described Home Secretary David Blunkett's moves to legalise cannabis as "timid."

"Public opinion is moving rapidly," he added.

"There is evidence to show a main plank of our strategy - to control availability - simply isn't working.

Trying to control drugs availability and supply is not working

Richard Brunstrom North Wales Police Chief Constable

"The consequences of that in crime and societal health are quite frightening - it's time to consider an alternative."

He said simply fighting the war on drugs harder would not work and other options had to be considered.

"We have got sufficient evidence now - four years into our current stratefy - to show that the main plank of it - trying to control drugs availability and supply is not working.

"North Wales Police continues to punch above its weight with the existing law.

"We have very sound and robust policies to deal with people who break the law.

"I'm calling for a debate as to where we should be in the future - not a suggestion that we abdicate our responsibilities at present.

Heroin needles
Some addicts use crime to fund their habit

Mr Brunstom said that, despite billions of pounds and thousands of officer hours, the number of addicts and "recreational users" of illegal drugs in the UK has multiplied at an alarming rate since the 1970s.

He compared the current situation with alcohol prohibition in the USA in the 1920s, which was an "unmitigated disaster".

There are currently 200,000 problem drug users in England and Wales, representing about 3% of all drug users.

Former Gwent Police chief constable Francis Wilkinson, who recently called for heroin to be legalised in a bid to cut street crime, supported Mr Brunstom's view.

"There seems to be a lot of common sense in what he is saying," he said.

"The current drug laws make the situation worse and any form of legalisation would be preferable.

The BBC's Wyre Davies
"There is an urgent need to consider all options"
Francis Wilkinson, former Gwent Police chief
"Any form of legalisation would be preferable"
Jon Owen Jones MP
backs the drugs call
Richard Brunstrom, North Wales Police
"Control of availability simply isn't working"
See also:

09 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Drugs war failing, MPs warn
05 Jul 01 | Health
Cannabis 'not medical panacea'
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