One of Scotland Yard's most senior officers has called for hard drugs -
including crack cocaine and heroin - to be decriminalised, saying that
police cannot win the war against dealers.

Chief Supt Anthony Wills, the borough commander of Hammersmith and Fulham
in London, said that as the state could not control the criminal trade in
drugs, it should take it over instead.

"I would have no problems with decriminalising drugs full stop," said Mr
Wills. "There have to be very stringent measures over the production and
supply of drugs and we have got to remove the drug market from criminals.
I do not want people to take drugs but if they are going to, I want them
to take them safely, with a degree of purity and in a controlled way."

Mr Wills, who heads more than 2,000 officers, said that draconian
anti-drugs measures had always failed. "There are some places where people
are beheaded if they sell drugs but even this does not stop the trade."

The officer, who has been a policeman for 30 years and a borough commander
for six, has two teenage children and said: "I do not want my children
taking drugs: what I am absolutely frightened about is that if my children
want to take drugs I cannot stop them because there are animals out there
who are prepared to sell them anything to make a profit."

He added: "I am not saying people should take drugs. They are very bad for
you but the reality of the world we live in is this: if people want to get
drugs they can get them. Drugs are a fact of life and you cannot eradicate
them. My only concern is to increase the safety of the community and not
to allow these ghastly people to make a fortune out of other people's
misery."

Mr Wills's call, made in an interview with the Hammersmith and Shepherd's
Bush Gazette, follows the controversy sparked by the Metropolitan Police's
"Lambeth experiment" two years ago in which police in south London turned
a blind eye to possession of cannabis.

The experiment led to allegations that hard drugs such as crack and heroin
were being sold openly on the streets of Lambeth. Cdr Brian Pad####, the
architect of the policy, was later suspended then reinstated over
allegations that he himself had taken drugs. He has since been transferred
to other duties and the experiment has been dropped.

Mr Wills, however, said that he too did not believe police should bother
upholding laws on cannabis. "I am very liberal in relation to possession
of drugs," he said. "Policing cannabis is a waste of our time as I do not
feel the effects of cannabis are any worse than over-consumption of
alcohol."

Last night his decision to air his views caused a row. Senior
Conservatives said he would encourage young people to think that taking
drugs was supported by the police and called on him to issue a retraction.

Ann Widdecombe, the former shadow home secretary, said: "When young people
read views like this from a senior policeman they get the impression that
taking drugs is okay - well it isn't. Hard drugs kill people and cannabis
is proven scientifically to be harmful."

Many Conservatives also argue that the Government has encouraged confusion
on the question of drugs by appearing to soften its policy. David
Blunkett, the Home Secretary, has already announced that cannabis is to be
downgraded from a Class B drug to Class C, meaning that possessing it will
no longer be an arrestable offence.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said last night that no action was planned
against Mr Wills "at this time". She added that she was not aware whether
he had told Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner, of his intention to air
his views.

The Home Office said: "All controlled drugs are harmful and will remain
illegal. The Government's drug strategy focuses on the most dangerous
drugs as the misery they cause cannot be underestimated. We have not seen
the interview and so cannot comment on it."


Author: David Bamber, Home Affairs Editor
Source: Daily Telegraph
Contact: dtletters@telegraph.co.uk
Website: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
Pubdate: Sunday, May 18, 2003