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Monday, 9 July, 2001, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Prison boss calls for drugs legalisation
Sir David Ramsbotham
Sir David is convinced of the need for drastic action
The chief inspector of prisons in England and Wales has called for drugs to be legalised.

Sir David Ramsbotham told the BBC that "exposure to what the drug culture has done to the people I am seeing in prison, their families and the community from which they come" had convinced him of the need for drastic action.

The misery that is caused by the people who are making criminal profit is so appalling

Sir David Ramsbotham

Sir David, who retires on 1 August, told the BBC's A Parting Shot on Prisons programme that legalisation would reduce crime motivated by the need to buy drugs.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that the UK's drug laws would not change unless there was evidence to suggest they needed to.

He said the government's priority had always been the fight against Class A drugs, and added that cannabis could act as a gateway to harder drugs.

'Licensed drug sales'

Speaking at a drug-free wing at Bullingdon Prison, Oxfordshire, Sir David said: "I think there is merit in legalising and prescribing so people do not have to go and find an illegal way of doing it.

Peter Lilley
Peter Lilley wants cannabis legalised
"The more I think about it and the more I look at what is happening, the more I can see the logic of legalising drugs, because the misery that is caused by the people who are making criminal profit is so appalling and the sums are so great that are being made illegally."

Former deputy Tory leader Peter Lilley prompted renewed debate by his call on Friday for cannabis to be legalised and sold through licensed outlets.

Two former home secretaries, Liberal Democrat Lord Jenkins of Hillhead and the Tory, Lord Baker of Dorking, told the Sunday Times they favoured decriminalisation.

And an opinion poll for the Independent on Sunday found resistance to the legalisation of cannabis wavering.

The NOP survey found that 51% opposed legalisation, compared with 37% who were in favour.

This compared with 66% against legalisation and 26% in favour in its 1996 survey.

Home Secretary David Blunkett has already welcomed an experiment by police in Lambeth, in south London, not to prosecute in minor cases of cannabis possession in order to concentrate on tackling Class A drugs.

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See also:

08 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett calls for cannabis debate
06 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Call to legalise cannabis rejected
30 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett targets young offenders
02 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Cannabis 'not being decriminalised'
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