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Lords call for rethink on drugs policy

Senior members of the House of Lords have called for a major overhaul of the country’s drug laws to focus on treatment instead of criminalisation.

During a debate yesterday Labour peer Lord Patel of called for a cross-party group to review drug policy.

He pointed favourably to the example of Portugal, where criminal sentences for drug use have been scrapped in favour of” drug treatment panels”.

Lord Patel, who wrote a report for the government in 2010 on reducing drug-crime and rehabilitating offenders, told peers: “All governments, my own included, sometimes failed to make the right decisions based on evidence due to the pressures that build up from public debate, which is itself often ill-informed due to exaggeration in the media and cries that the government of the day are somehow being soft on drugs if they give way to the advice of experts.

“Let’s be clear about this - the evidence supports treatment rather than criminalisation and punishment.

 “I would strongly urge the government to ensure that our current drugs policy is based on research and evidence rather than ideological and moral opinions of media commentators.”

Tory former cabinet minister Lord Fowler joined those calling for a new approach to drugs control, warning that the “old policies” had failed.

Lord Fowler said talk of a “war on drugs” might give comfort to politicians but does little to solve the problem.

“This one-dimensional approach has never worked in the past and is unlikely to work in the future,” he said.

The debate came after deputy prime minister Nick Clegg recently accused the Conservatives of refusing to look “imaginatively” at new ways of tackling the UK’s drugs problem.

However, the Lords appear to be at odds with home secretary Teresa May and Labour leader Ed Miliband. Ms May has insisted the current approach is working while Mr Miliband said the answer was not “decriminalisation or legislation” but “better education, better prevention and better treatment.”

Readers' comments (5)

  • No, drugs should not be decriminalised and I don't want my taxes being spent on pouring methadone down everyone's neck. The NHS can't cope as it is.

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  • Anonymous | 18-Oct-2013 11:24 am

    I take it you don't work in Addiction Services, then?

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  • Anonymous.. Methadodone is one treatment for opiate abuse, there are a range of other treatments for drug addictions. You are already paying to put drug offenders in prison with your taxes. Why not punish and treat drug addicted people at the same time or consecutively? This way society gets to see addicted people punished and the addict gets deserved help.. Win Win..

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  • Is it partly to be because the prisons are bursting with too many to cope with?
    Sorry not good enough reason for decriminalisation.
    I worked in the prison and we nurses spent a great deal of time measuring out with two, the methadone drug for prisoners. I believe in education, prevention and proper treatment. So if this is the route we will be taking then a robust management will need to be in place at the prison.

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  • Tiger Girl

    This one crops up cyclically: for political reasons, as opposed to arguments based on empirical evidence, most goverments will not decriminalize drugs.

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