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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Rise in hard drugs seizures
Addict injecting
The government says it is winning the war on drugs
The amount of hard drugs seized in the UK has risen by 10%, according to latest figures.

Police and Customs officers beat the target set for seizures of class A drugs in 2000, the Home Office statistics show.

The number of people who faced penalties for supplying hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine also increased by just less than 25%.

The government says the figures prove its drugs policies are working.

Drugs minister Bob Ainsworth said: "By targeting our resources on the most harmful drugs, we have been effective in disrupting the supply of class A drugs across the country."

Legalisation call

But at the Police Federation conference in Bournemouth this week, this optimism was challenged.

Drugs Minister Bob Ainsworth
Bob Ainsworth: "We will work further to improve approach"
Richard Brunstrom, chief constable of North Wales Police, said the war on drugs could "never be won" and called for them to be legalised.

Despite the "small" changes in the statistics, the street price of drugs such as heroin was falling sharply - indicating larger amounts were being smuggled into the UK without detection, he said.

According to the 2000 UK Drug Seizure and Offender Statistics, the total street value of class A drugs discovered by enforcement agencies was 789m.

But Mr Brunstrom said the total annual value of the drugs industry in the UK was 8bn.

'Vigilant'

Mr Ainsworth said on Friday the latest figures were evidence of "the government's strong commitment to tackling the supply of class A drugs in our society".

"We will remain vigilant and will work further to improve our approach," he added.


It is obvious that enforcement alone can never solve the drugs problem

Roger Howard, DrugScope
The figures show the number of class A drugs seizures rose from 30,900 in 1999 to 34,100 in 2000.

The number of offenders dealt with for supplying class A drugs numbered 12,100 in 2000, compared with 9,700 the previous year.

There was also a decrease in the number of seizures of Class B drugs - from 108,300 in 1999 to 96,100 in 2000.

Roger Howard, chief executive of drugs charity DrugScope, said he welcomed the fact more class A drugs were being seized.

But he added no evidence had been seen that such seizures had had a knock-on effect on availability of drugs or their prices.

"In particular the price of heroin and crack has been decreasing for many years now," he said.

"It is obvious that enforcement alone can never solve the drugs problem.

"It is time to reassess our approach and devise a new policy which seeks to address the root causes of the problem, by tackling deprivation and improving education, while also ensuring that those who have drug problems get the help and treatment they urgently need."

See also:

17 Oct 01 | UK
Tracking drugs into the UK
07 Nov 00 | UK
Britain 'winning drugs war'
30 Oct 01 | UK Politics
'No cannabis cafes for UK'
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