15 October 2006

Drug Thresholds Abandoned!

In a low-key announcement, buried at the end of a low key report launch, the Government has abandoned it's efforts to introduce "threshold quantities." These, you will remember, were to be introduced as part of the Drugs Act 2005. The aim was to introduce "prescribed amounts" of drugs, above which there would be a presumption of intent to supply, and a reverse evidentiary burden on the defendant to disprove the assertion.

The measure was widely reported in the media at the time, and trumpeted by the Home Office as a measure that would see many more people successfully prosecuted for supply.
Many in the drugs field, including KFx, were opposed to the measure. We disapproved of the legal change, and argued that, as well as the law being ill-considered, the defining of threshold amounts would prove impossible.

We were also concerned that, despite the figures that the Government published in the RIA that accompanied the bill, it became clear that the Home Office had no idea how many people would be affected by the change. When asked, for example, how many people were found to be in possession of specific amounts of cannabis, the Home Office acknowledged that they didn't store this information, and so couldn't say how many people would be charged with supply under the new rules.

Only 36 organisations responded to the consultation, mostly police forces. Fortunately, critical comments were received from many, including KFx, Transform, Release, Turning Point and others. It is was saddening to see that some very vocal groups, including Reform, Kaleidescope, Drugscope and Liberty did not contribute.

Having said that, the Home Office, having received serious structured criticism decided once again to abandon ill-considered legislation. As with the proposal to change Section 8 of the MDA, the Home Office has been found to make policy on the hoof, and be forced in to backing down when challenged in a serious and consistent way.

For the full Home Office response to the consultation click here

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