Suffolk: PCC questions value of cannabis warnings as figures show more than one issued a day
09:00 03 January 2014
More than one person a day has received a cannabis street warning in Suffolk over the past four years.
Figures released by Suffolk Constabulary show that from the beginning of 2010 until September this year 1,573 cannabis warnings were issued.
The verbal warnings are given by police officers to those found in possession of cannabis for the first time, they are recorded on a police database but do not constitute a criminal conviction and don’t go on the guilty party’s criminal record.
377 cannabis warnings were issued in Suffolk in 2010; 485 were issued in 2011; 412 were issued in 2012; and 299 were issued up to the end of August in 2013.
However Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, questioned the value of the warnings in tackling drug use.
He said the scale of cannabis possession demonstrated by the figures was “cause for concern”.
“It’s something I will be taking up with the Chief Constable in person to make sure that the Constabulary is doing what it can about substance misuse,” he said.
Mr Passmore said drug use was often closely related to other crimes such as burglary and shoplifting as well as sexual assault and violence.
He questioned whether the system of using cannabis warnings was deterring people from using drugs.
“I’m not sure that it is,” he said.
“I’ve always been a believer in giving people a second chance… but I want to be sure that this isn’t being seen as a soft option.
“I need to be convinced that this method is actually working and I’m sceptical at the moment.
“We need to be pretty tough in dealing with drugs culture because it’s not acceptable.
“We spend a fortune of taxpayer’s money on drugs treatment but if we stopped them taking drugs in the first place we could use that money elsewhere,” he said.
“You are not going to cure the problem by giving out the wrong message. We need to be sending a really tough message and I’m not sure that we are.”
In guidelines issued in 2009 the Association of Chief Police Officers recommended the use of cannabis street warnings as the first sanction for possession of cannabis unless there were exceptional circumstances, in a process referred to as ‘escalation’.
Suffolk Constabulary explained the use of cannabis warnings: “When an individual is stopped and they are found to be in possession of cannabis police will carry out checks to establish whether they have been found to be in possession of cannabis previously.
“The way the individual is dealt with will be dependent on the amount of cannabis found, previous convictions and any intelligence in connection with that individual.
“Where appropriate a cannabis street warning will be given.”