Major fall in Suffolk and Essex cannabis convictions

Police prosecutions in relation to cannabis have seen a steep decline Picture: PA WIRE

Police prosecutions in relation to cannabis have seen a steep decline Picture: PA WIRE - Credit: PA

Cannabis convictions in Suffolk and Essex have fallen steeply in recent years - with campaigners attributing the decline in a reduction in stop and search.

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Ministry of Justice figures show the number of people found guilty of cannabis possession in court in Suffolk fell 53% from 247 in 2012 to 115 in 2017. In Essex there was a 30% drop from 432 to 302 over the same period.

While drugs charity Release has welcomed the reduction, which it attributes to a decline in stop and search, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore has warned that sanctions must continue to act as a deterrent.

“Sadly, we are continuing to encounter some very serious issues locally related to drug use and criminal activity, which is having some dreadful consequences,” Mr Passmore added.

“Whilst on the face of it reductions in the level of prosecutions may be welcome, I need to be convinced everything possible is being done to reduce demand in the first place.

“We know cannabis use can often lead to using more dangerous substances in the future. As commissioner I examine the stop and search data regularly and I don’t believe the reduced levels of search are the cause of these figures - our data shows this policing tactic is in fact being much better targeted.”

Of those successfully prosecuted by Suffolk police, 79 were given a fine or discharge, while none received a prison sentence. In Essex 213 were given a fine or discharge, while five received prison sentences.

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Cannabis possession charges made up 27% of the total drugs possession offences Suffolk Police achieved in court and 33% in Essex. Cannabis is the most commonly used drug in the UK.

Niamh Eastwood, executive director of Release, said was welcomed “as low-level possession offences should not be a priority for police,”

“That being said over 50% of all stop and searches still focus on this type of activity, with huge disparities in how drugs are policed across the country,” she added.

“Some police forces such as Durham, and Avon and Somerset are taking a more pragmatic approach and diverting people away from the criminal justice system for possession offences.”

Recently Mike Barton, Durham Police Chief Constable, called for cannabis to be legalised.