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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 04:18 GMT
Police chief praises cannabis scheme
Cannabis plant
The scheme has enabled a crackdown on hard drugs
The police chief pioneering a tolerant approach to cannabis has told BBC News he is "very pleased" with the success of the scheme.

Lambeth Police Commander Brian Paddick said the pilot project - under which people found with small quantities of cannabis are let off with a warning rather than being arrested and cautioned - should be continued.

The scheme had saved a lot of police time and had led to a "dramatic increase" in arrests for hard drugs and much better relationships between the local south London community and police, he said.


It is not about approving of cannabis... it is about concentrating scarce police resources on those drugs that cause most harm

Brian Paddick

Mr Paddick's comments came a day after a government-commissioned report said cannabis should be downgraded from a Class B to a Class C drug.

It was his first interview since controversy blew up over remarks he had posted on a website about anarchy and drugs.

Mr Paddick said the community supported the scheme so much that it was now starting to work with the police against more serious drug crime.

Lambeth Police Commander Brian Paddick
Paddick: "Very pleased" with the softly-softly approach
"The community is concerned about the drugs that cause most harm. They are absolutely determined to rid the streets of crack cocaine and heroin.

"[The scheme] is not about any sort of moral stance on cannabis, it is not about approving of cannabis.

"It is about concentrating scarce police resources on those drugs that cause most harm - crack cocaine and heroin."

Mr Paddick said the scheme had allowed police to concentrate on what residents were really worried about - drug-related gun crime.


I'm fairly satisfied that the scheme is worth continuing, at least in the short term

Brian Paddick

An official Metropolitan Police evaluation of the project - which began in July last year - is due to be published by Easter.

The Home Office said it is waiting to see the report before making a decision on whether to reclassify cannabis.

If it was downgraded to Class C, people would be able to smoke it in public without fearing arrest.

Mr Paddick said: "I'm fairly satisfied that the scheme is worth continuing, at least in the short term.

"There has been considerable saving of police time, there has been an increase in the arrest of people for dealing in hard drugs as a consequence, and I am very pleased with the results."

'Anarchism appeal'

On Tuesday Mr Paddick was grilled by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens and Assistant Commissioner Mike Todd over his comments on the www.urban75.com website.

He was applauded for interacting with the local community but rebuked for some of the language he used, which it was felt, could have undermined his authority.

As well as saying he found the concept of anarchism appealing he made several comments apparently supporting the legalisation of some drugs.

On Friday he told the BBC he had agreed not to make any further comment on the website comments, or the subsequent media row.

See also:

19 Feb 02 | England
Police chief's unorthodox approach
02 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Cannabis 'not being decriminalised'
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