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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 04:30 GMT
Police chief attacked for drug comments
A senior police officer has been criticised after saying most of the damage from drugs is caused not by the substances themselves, but by the UK legal system.

North Wales Police Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom said he saw no problem with drugs as long as addicts were not committing crimes to fund their habit.

Leah Betts on life support
Leah Betts died after taking ecstasy
But Paul Betts, whose daughter Leah died after taking ecstasy, said Mr Brunstrom's ideas were impractical and would only lead to more crime.

Mr Brunstrom told Channel 4 News: "If you're not mugging old ladies and not stealing from shops and not stealing cars, what actually is the problem?

"Why shouldn't you be taking drugs? Why are these things illegal? What was the purpose behind it?

"We have the harshest drugs laws in Europe and by far the worst drug abuse problem - so we haven't got it right, and in my view we are losing the war.

"There is no doubt at all that there is an appalling toll of human misery caused by the misuse of drugs in the current environment.


We have the harshest drugs laws in Europe and by far the worst drug abuse problem - so we haven't got it right

Richard Brunstrom
"My proposition is that much of that is caused by their illegality and not by the drugs.

"If they were treated differently by our legal system it's quite possible that much of the misery, much of the harm, much of the adverse impact on health could be swept away."

He said UK drug laws were highly "illogical", as some seriously damaging substances were legal.

"It is very clear that alcohol and nicotine are arguably much more dangerous to individuals and more costly to our society than many of the proscribed drugs.

"Society needs to talk about this. Why are drugs illegal? Clearly if they are damaging to health then that is one good reason.


Alcohol and nicotine are arguably much more dangerous to individuals and more costly to our society

Richard Brunstrom
"But the reasons why some of these drugs have become illegal are now lost in the mists of time."

He added that if drugs were legal, their street value would not be so high, and drug pushers would lose interest.

"Something like 6bn a year is going into the pockets of criminals from citizens of this country to support a war that we are losing and in my view we should be looking at alternatives.

"If you're going to be a drug addict surely it's better to have a controlled drug of known purity with proper dosage advice... rather than buying something unknown from a stranger on a street corner."


If you legalise drugs who is going to pay for them? Are they going to get their drugs for free?

Paul Betts

Mr Betts said of Mr Brunstrom's comments: "While his idea might be made with the best will in the world, it won't work.

"If you legalise drugs who is going to pay for them? Are they going to get their drugs for free?

"If they do become addicted to a 'legal' drug and their habit is going up and up, I very much doubt the NHS is going to produce the drugs cheaply - so crime will escalate."

Mr Brunstrom has previously compared the UK's drug policy to that of America's alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, and called for a Royal Commission to be set up to study the issue.

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