Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith will visit Brixton on Tuesday to
promote his party's opposition to the "softly softly" drugs experiment in
the London borough of Lambeth.

Under the experiment, which was introduced a year ago by former Lambeth
police commander Brian Paddick, those found carrying small amounts of
cannabis are given a warning by police, rather than prosecuted.

The Conservatives say the policy has handed over control to drug dealers
and their gangs.

The Home Secretary David Blunkett is due to announce to the Commons on
Wednesday whether the government intends to downgrade the penalties for
possession and dealing in cannabis.

The Lambeth scheme was launched to give police more time to combat hard drugs.

However, the Conservatives say there has been a significant increase
overall in drug trafficking in Lambeth and drug dealers are in control, not
the police.

Kate Hoey, one of the local Labour MPs, has also condemned the experiment,
saying it has made drug trafficking socially acceptable.

Last week, Mr Paddick defended the scheme, saying there was no evidence to
show his relaxed approach had attracted an influx of "drugs tourists" to
Brixton.

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.

The policy of issuing police warnings might be extended to other parts of
the country, if as seems likely, Mr Blunkett announces on Wednesday that
the penalties for cannabis are to be downgraded.

He told MPs last October there was a case for reclassification: for
reducing the maximum penalty for possession of cannabis from five years to
two years and for trafficking from 14 years to five years.



Pubdate: Mon, 08 Jul 2002
Source: BBC News (UK Web)
Webpage: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/england/newsid_2116000/2116975.stm
Copyright: 2002 BBC
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