Possession of illegal drugs, trafficking of illegal drugs, manufacture of illegal drugs, drug gangs are all a nightmare to the society they are therefore classified under the legislation provided by in the 1971 Drug act as criminal activities. The criminal justice system therefore has the mandate and the operational structure to deal with drug related criminal offences. Due to the ill effects of drug abuse, governments in the United Kingdom have come up with drug policies as a response to the problem.
A drug policy may be described as a collection of laws and steps taken by the government in a specific country to discourage the usage of narcotics and drug-related problems. According to the British Foundation Drug Policy Program (BFDPP), trying to minimise the damage arising from the impact of medications should be the goal of a successful drug policy. It also argues that the numerous variables that will aid in mitigating opioid damage should be able to define a successful drug strategy. Therefore the goal should not only be to minimise the consumption and availability of narcotics, but also to reduce the damage induced by drugs. The Criminal justice system has developed a number of policies to help deal with the drug problem. One of the policies is the low level Drug Enforcement Policy which has been proved to be one of the best methods of dealing with drug syndicates and drug problems. It includes the use of police information and tactics at the street level so as to deal with the buying and sale of drugs. It involves the use of police interventions to prevent supply and the demand thereby significantly paralyzing the operation of the drug market. It aims at organizing the law enforcement agencies to deal with the drug problems from the national and international perspective through tracking the national and international sources of drugs as well as those who distribute, sell and buy these drugs. It also aims at helping young people avoid drugs and to treat those who have severe drug problems, helps in provision of information, support and guidance to help young people.
Due to the large size of the drug market, there is needed to know the structure and the channels of distribution so as to apply enforcement strategies for the low Drug Enforcement Policy to be effective. In the supply market, most participants are those who sell at the retail level, the major suppliers are always very few. The retail market can be used effectively to enforce the law. By its nature, sellers are trying to sell drugs to anyone who may be interested in buying. They also tend to operate in specific places where the prospective buyer can easily access them. However, according to the Home Affairs Committee. (2002) report titled “The Government’s Drugs Policy: An in-depth analysis” the introduction of mobile phones has complicated the issue as most sellers no longer stay at strategic positions but tend to use the phones through which interested buyers or the seller will specify the venue for their meeting. It has however been found that most buyers were known to trust those known to them.
It is important to note that most of the markets through which the drugs are sold are located in open places where the chances of meeting a buyer are high. These places include the pubs, night clubs, and public parks. With proper understanding of these places the law enforcers may have the capacity to intercept certain drugs as well as arrest offenders. It is reported that given any person who supplies drugs at the retail level there are highly organized systems of distribution at the “wholesale” level. These are the channels through which drugs are imported form other countries into Britain.
It has been found that adaptation is used by both the buyers and the sellers to evade arrest of police sources. Critics argue that, the justice system should focus more on prevention rather than on persecution. As a result learning would result into a reduced crime rate.
The policy divides drug related criminal activities into two. The first category deals with drug supply and demand. In this category, there are criminal activities like possession, selling of drugs, and acquisition of drugs with the intention of selling it.
The other category of the policy deals with crimes which arise from the desire to acquire drugs at all costs so as to purchase drugs. This leads to crime, theft, robbery, burglary. The drug money is not always legal hence it tends to be hidden leading to money laundering and tax evasion. In addition due to the nature of activities undertaken by the sellers of drug, they are unable to seek legal settlement of their disputes. As a result they resort to violence and street murders as a form of expressing “justice” and settling disputes. These therefore form the second category which involves violence associated with drugs. These categories assist the law criminal department in planning and affecting a drug policy.
The law enforcement agents find it difficult to arrest and persecute people involved in the buying and selling of drugs since the people in the market employ high levels of secrecy. They only deal with those participants who are trusted and who are regular players. According to the It has been found that the buyers and sellers in the drug market did not see the police as a threat to their activities. The report was also of the view that the current strategies being employed by the law enforcement agencies were not effective enough to interfere with the operation of the drug market. The report found that the players in the drug market adapted to any police operation within a very short time.
Police sources has been deemed useful in the in the low level enforcement process. The criminal justice department should seek to reduce the supply of drug into the market. This can be done by coming up with structures to counteract supply. However this strategy has not been entirely successful due to the nature of the drug market. It is clouded by a lot of secrecy hence the police have no ability to acquire information regarding possible supply. Use of an inside source to obtain market details and help in arresting drug offenders has however been recommended as reports show that an inside source has the ability to acquire information easily. (Home Office Drug Strategy Directorate, 2004).
There is also need to introduce certain strategies to limit demand of the drug in the market. One of the ways of reducing demand is through treatment and rehabilitation of those with drug related problems. This program was adopted by the criminal justice system after the assessment of its repeat offenders. It found that even after arrests and prosecutions, a majority of offenders would still participate in criminal activities despite severe penalties.
A broad variety of physical, mental, financial and even psychiatric issues impact people with serious addiction problems. Thus, they need medication. In the low level narcotics regulation, recovery is a crucial focus. By Paul Quigley, according to a paper. (2007) titled “Treatment for Drug Misuse in the West Midlands” it was proven that treatment has worked for the Low Level Drug Enforcement Policy. For example it was shown that as a result of rehabilitation there was decline in crime rates. However the report claimed that the treatment was failing due to a number of factors: The number of addicts was constantly rising every year hence there could not be any proper planning and there were also a large number of drug addicts in Britain. The report also noted that the “scope, accessibility and effectiveness” of the treatment which is currently available are not effective. It further notes that that there is poor funding it cannot carry out its treatment operation effectively. The other problem that has been noted is that, more often than not, it is difficult to locate the drug addict and to make him/her agree, willingly to undergo treatment. The other problem is that many drug users suffer from diseases such as HIV/Aids, Hepatitis B and C complex hence have even more serious health problem. There are also a wide range of psychological and psychiatric problems. Deaths as a result of misuse of drugs have also been a given treatment technique vary from one drug to another. According the UK drug policy commission, these include: Pharmacotherapy used largely in treating hard drugs in classes “A” and “B”, psychological approaches which tackles the drug problem from the psychological perspective and therapeutic communities. The treatment of different drugs, however, has been noted to vary and some of these treatment programs are still not well developed. According to the report, the National Treatment Outcome Research Study (NTORS) has largely succeeded in improving the cost and effectiveness of treatment procedures by employing well defined and structured programs. There are various ways of improving the treatment strategy. It seeks to provide treatment activity to drug addicts irrespective of race, gender age or type of drug with which they have a problem. It also seeks to develop a cost effective structure through which treatment can be made possible. The program also seeks to ensure that the drug offenders are guided and counseled so that they may adopt the societal ideals.
As a treatment and a control measure, community based responses has also been adopted. According to the international guidelines for Estimating the Effect of Drugs in Society, for every I pound spent on drug treatment, three pounds are saved in criminal justice and social costs with other studies showing that the amount saved is even higher that is between 9 pounds and 18 pounds.. The criminal justice department got a boost from the creation of the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) in 2001 which was created to “improve the availability, capacity and effectiveness of treatment for drug use in England” (Home office, 2001). The implementation of the Opioid Rehabilitation Initiative in 2003 has since enabled the criminal and justice system to provide alternatives to care for more individuals. It offered the system a mandate to enable opioid addicts to transition into the rehab system from correctional facilities. The treatment program has also received a boost from the government in terms of resource allocation. According to the home office report of 2007, the governments’ funding for drug treatment in the Pool treatment Budget (PTB) ( which aims at offering treatment at the local level) increased by 28% in 2007/2008 financial year. All these interventions has let to a decrease in drug related crime. According to the 2007 report, the level of drug related crime fell by 20% as a result of the introduction of various intervention programs. This has also seen the reduction in the levels of “self-reported commissions of acquisitive crime” among offenders after undergoing drug treatment. (UKDPC, 2008)
Report from the British Home Office in January 2007 titled “Turning Strategy into Reality” showed that the government had been quite successful in its treatment strategies. It showed that it had delivered treatment in the country to over 170,000 people. The disappointment is that despite an increase in the justice system’s investment in treatment, the majority of its spending still goes to enforcement of drug laws. There is also the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System which has been mandated with collection of data on patients who are undergoing structured treatment in registered treatment institutions as a result of drug abuse.
In the United Kingdom, drugs are categorized into classes “A”, “B” and “C”. The maximum prison sentence for possession of drugs in categories A, B and C are 7, 5 and 2 years respectively. While the maximum prison sentence for supply of drugs in categories A,B and C are Life in prison, 14 and 14 years respectively. The policy of criminalization of possession and supply of hard drugs has been praised by a majority of British residents though there has been the controversial issue of recreational drug. Different groups of people argue that not all illicit drugs are harmful. An increasing majority of British citizens are not addicts but they use drugs for recreational purposes. It is however, very difficult in making a clear distinction between the addicts and the recreational users. There is also the possibility of a recreational user turning into an addict.
According to a survey carried out by the Commission Commission Drug War Chronicle on the British attitudes towards drug policy, Titled “A survey of British attitudes towards drug policy” it was found that a majority of people agreed with the categorization of drugs. It showed that 73% of the respondents favored the classification of drugs and wanted the hard drugs to be maintained at that level. However, there have been complaints that the categorization is rigid and that it has created a distorted perception to the general public that all drugs are dangerous. There are also demands for other drugs to be categorized differently. According to the Drug war Chronicles majority of people in Britain supported the decriminalization of Marijuana. It claims that of the total population interviewed, a total of 58% of respondents wanted Marijuana to be treated by the justice system more leniently with: 30% supporting lesser criminal penalties with 13% wanting the total decriminalization of the substance and 15% wanting decriminalization of both sales and possession.
The low level drug enforcement policies have been accused of over concentrating on limiting the supply of drugs. Most of their resources and workforce tend to be focused on investigation and persecution of drug supply and distribution. This coupled with the attention given by the media on the subject of drug trafficking has led to an anti-drug feeling. This has led to harsher punishments being carried out by the justice system. The system should however give priority to the rehabilitation of drug addicts. Critics are still of the belief that Low Level Drug Enforcement Policies within the British Criminal Justice is too expensive to the tax payer. According to official report by the UK drug policy control, the central and the local government spends over 1Billion pounds in implementing policies through. It is also estimated that most of this cost goes to the processing of drug users through the criminal justice system. This however has not helped much as there has been a perennial increase in the number of addicts. According to the justice system should improve on its coordination and efficiency. It should seek cost effective measures and not only rely strictly to its policies.
The Low Level Drug Enforcement Policies also has also the neighborhood policing approach. This initiative is to help the investigators gather information on the effects of drugs in a given neighborhoods this is done by improving crackdown on the drug supply points in neighborhoods, hence interfering with the operation of the criminal gangs. This is to help limit the availability of drug in the neighborhoods where a majority of children and people live (Blackman, 2004).
The creation of the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) in April 2006 has helped in improving the Low Level Drug Enforcement Policy. It has given the criminal system more mandate and resources to investigate and prosecute organized drug criminals who engage in the supply of class “A” Drugs. These people who are endowed with large amounts of resources are also highly organized. They are therefore very hard to investigate and persecute. Reports indicate that as a result of the act, the total number of offenders who were convicted for dealing with hard drugs like cocaine, heroine and opium rose by 12% between 2006 and 2007. It has even managed to boost intelligence leading to the disruption of trafficking syndicates. This figure reduced from 413 in 2006 to 347 in 2008.
The policy has been praised by the Justice system and the Home office which claims that there has been an acute decline in terms of drug related crime. However it is reported that despite an increase in the number of drug seizures, the street drug prices have decreased. For example a report titled: an analysis of the UK drug policy showed that the street price of a gram of heroin fell from 70 pounds in 2000 to 54 pounds in 2005. It also indicates that the prices of various drugs have fallen in Britain in the last ten years despite an increase in the toughness of enforcement programs. According to a number of policy makers, following this trend, it is seen that Low Level Drug policy does not influence the number of drug users neither does it influence its supply. But these are influenced by certain social and cultural factors. The policy therefore has limited ability in influencing drug dependence. Others see the policy as influencing this trend. According to the analysis, countries like Sweden and the Netherlands which have tougher laws on drug offence, have a lower rate of drug and substance abuse. According to The Home office report (January 2007), drug related crime has fallen by over 20% since the onset of the low level crime policy. This is because the pursuit of traffickers, the identification and persecution of drug offenders, the destruction of coordinated drug supply groups and the confiscation of properties belonging to alleged drug dealers have increased in order to paralyse their operations.
In the Low Level Law Control Strategy, drug monitoring has been primarily used to classify drug criminals. This is achieved by a set of checks on a potential substance user, and the screening of the blood of a defendant for drug substance is an example. On March 2003 the criminal and justice system introduced the Testing on Arrest and Required Assessment as an intervention program of Low Level Drug Enforcement Policy. It sought to analyze the levels of drug use in a suspect. This evidence serves as evidence during the persecution of the offender and also provides a background on how severe the problem is being experienced by the offender so as to help in the treatment and rehabilitation process. The drug testing intervention however remains controversial. According to the opinion of the UK Drug Control Committee, very little evidence can be drawn from the samples taken from individuals. It further claims that, following the sampling of a number of reviews, it was found that testing was not very effective.
The Low Level Drug Enforcement Policies is surely an effective way of fighting drug crime; it should however emphasize more on treatment and rehabilitation and not only on persecution.