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Tuesday, March 2, 1999 Published at 14:06 GMT


Drugs Csar battles to clean up Britain's streets

Tim Sebastian interviews drugs Csar Keith Hellawell

Drugs csar Keith Hellawell has admitted Britain's streets still have a drug problem but has insisted the UK is leading the battle against substance misuse.

A year after becoming the country's first Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator, Mr Hellawell told BBC World's HARDtalk he gave himself a B+ for performance - but admitted there was still some way to go.

He said: "A substantial amount of drugs are getting through onto our streets and of course the strategy is to stop that and to reduce that and what I'm looking at is the best ways we can do that.

"Seizing them obviously is a positive way but that isn't the only way. It is getting at the money, it is getting at the precursor chemicals, it is getting to the hearts and minds of young people."

Prevention before cure

Mr Hellawell launched a 10-year strategy last April to help the government shift drugs policy toward prevention rather than reaction.

[ image: Hellawell: Not 'starry-eyed']
Hellawell: Not 'starry-eyed'
Targets include helping young people resist drugs and protecting communities from drug-related crime. Mr Hellawell also wants to cripple the supply of drugs on UK streets.

And despite evidence that more young people are getting involved with drugs, Mr Hellawell told HARDtalk he was a "very positive individual" and determined to make a difference.

"I'm not unrealistic, I'm not starry-eyed, there's no suggestion that we will stop drugs in this country in the next 10 years or so," he said. "There is determination on my part and certainly on behalf of the government that we will make an impact and I know we will make an impact and we will make it better."

He was frequently outspoken on drugs during his time as Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, citing that drugs was at the heart of many of Leeds' crime problems.

Top of the class

Now a special advisor to the government, it has perhaps been an unexpected career path for someone who left school aged 15 to become a miner and family breadwinner.

But Keith Hellawell had always liked the idea of being a police officer and took a pay cut to join the police force.

"I'd been going out with wife from age 15," he said "When we reached 20 my wife said it was time we got married.

"I wanted to get a proper job, as it were, something that was a job for life and the police service in those days provided a free house, a police house, so it was the police service for me."

He rose quickly through the ranks: he was good at sport, came top in the exams and was soon on an accelerated promotion scheme. He was to become the county's youngest sergeant and youngest inspector.

Despite success Mr Hellawell is determined to keep fighting drugs and is modest about his own achievements

"I'm optimistic but realistic," he said. "I think being in public service for so many years there's always something in your performance that you can improve."

You can watch the HARDtalk interview in full on BBC World and News 24 at the times shown below.

BBC World (times shown in GMT)
March 2 1530 and 1930
March 3 0730 and 0930

News 24 (times shown in GMT)
March 2 2030
March 3 25 0330

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