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Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Paddick dismisses cannabis critics
Commander Brian Paddick
Lambeth has seen a "dramatic" fall in robberies
A police commander who pioneered a lenient approach to cannabis possession in south London has dismissed his critics on the first anniversary of the scheme.

Former Lambeth commander Brian Paddick said there was no evidence to show his "softly softly" approach attracted an influx of "drugs tourists" to Brixton.

Since July 2001, people caught with small amounts of cannabis in the borough have been let off with a formal warning rather than being arrested or cautioned.

Mr Paddick told The Guardian on Tuesday: "The fact is, cannabis and other drugs are so easily available in all parts of London, and in other parts of the country, who would want to come for Brixton for them?

Cannabis plant
There is "no evidence" more children are taking cannabis
"Drug tourism appears to be the expectation rather than the reality."

Figures from Scotland Yard last month showed street crime in Lambeth has fallen dramatically.

Scotland Yard's Deputy Commissioner Ian Blair, last week said the pilot scheme was "undoubtedly" beneficial to the police.

But the approach has been criticised by Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey and other Brixton leaders.

'Blatant' use

Ms Hoey said she believes the borough now has "more drug dealers than ever before" and that children have been given the message that "cannabis is no worse for you than sweets".

Mr Paddick dismissed concerns that children were at greater risk of being drawn into drug use.

Lambeth crime figures
Robberies fell by 50% in the six months to April 2002
Lambeth has London's highest reduction in robbery this year
January to May 2002: 740 people had cannabis confiscated
January to May 2001: 249 arrests for cannabis possession
He said: "Children at risk may be a perception rather than a reality... if there seems to be more children smoking, perhaps they are being more blatant about it, or maybe people are more aware now of what has been happening in Lambeth for years."

Mr Blair told a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority that there was no evidence to suggest more children were smoking cannabis or that drugs tourists were heading to Lambeth.

Mr Paddick has been moved to a desk job following allegations about his private life.

He hoped that spending less time processing arrests for cannabis would mean more police time was available for dealing with "serious crimes".

Figures released by the Metropolitan Police show robberies in Lambeth fell by almost 50% in the six months up to April this year.

The pilot scheme is continuing in Lambeth but police are awaiting guidance from the Home Secretary before deciding whether to roll out the project across London.


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