LEAP UK LAUNCH When the Cops said we refuse to arrest drug users any more

Under the slogan “Legalise all drugs/Ask us why” Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization of former & current police-officers that was founded originally in the United States in 2002, came together in Committee Room 10 of the House of Commons on February 29th 2016.Their Mission was to tell Parliament criminalising drugs users has been an expensive waste of time in every imaginable way..

Neil Woods, a former undercover drugs detective and chairman of LEAP UK, chaired the meeting. The LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) Launch UK meeting came immediately after a similar gathering organised by Andria Efthimiou of the John Mordaunt Trust & Frances Sealey of the Globalnet21. Neil Woods mentioned his own drug use, particularly referring to how hard it was to disregard your duty to help as a police officer, because you are carrying out an undercover op. This meant you had to ignore people who were actually in dire need of medical and/or psychological help..

Norman Lamb (LD) MP leant his weight to the Launch and was the only MP who spoke though happily, there were several MPs and a Lord present, including Paul Flynn (L), Keith Vaz (L), Ronnie Cowan (SNP) Dr Paul Monaghan (SNP) & Benjamin Mancroft Conservative Peer, so it was non-partisan as the international drug policy reform movement is around the world. Norman Lamb said “We have managed to criminalise very many of our young people blighting their career prospects for doing something that only affects themselves. We choose to criminalise them whilst at the same time probably 50% of our current government have taken in their time but happened to get away with it, so haven’t had their lives blighted. Yet they maintain the argument that we continue to prosecute people. It is the height of hypocrisy.” This should be addressed as a health issue.

As a foreigner (Colombia) and from the formal meetings and informal interviews organized by Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt, I got the general impression that drug-policy stagnation and even backwards trends in the UK are still taking reformists by surprise, particularly as the UK spearheaded Harm Reduction philosophy and practices years ago. It also became very obvious that that this backward sliding situation is closely tied to how the whole welfare system is being dismantled and de-constructed. Whatever the case might be, our UK colleagues are in there fighting and making a difference.

Among others, they are doing this by strengthening their alliances with MPs and allies in the House of Lords to bring about legislative reform in all of the areas (poverty, housing …. ) which are clearly connected to drug policy reform, impoverished people are often the ones behind bars for drug selling, and the selling of sex by students who cannot afford to pay tuition fees since the Coalition raised them, are but two examples.

The LEAP Launch meeting brought together drug policy advocates from all walks of life but mainly former and active police officers who, because of their attempts at enforcing Prohibition often have been the failures, not to mention the devastation caused.

Rosemary Humphreys, from Anyone’s Child, also gave a very touching testimony which told of how the death of her two children, one 23 years old and the other 39-year-old, could have been avoided if drugs were controlled and not in the hands of criminals who largely couldn’t care less about users. Their friends delayed calling for help incase they were blamed for the drugs use, so that by the time help arrived it was too late.

Annie Machon, a former MI5 operative, mentioned how, ever since the 1990s, we have observed an overlapping between drug money and terrorist organizations and how drug prohibition is pushing more and more people underground. Annie also pointed to the fact that what we saw in 2009 was how it was actually drug money that bailed out the crashing banking system. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/12SpCIHymohQFg9LPB75DVp1SPn-A1GiJ4WV4uZjcNos/viewform?edit2=2_ABaOnueHpUv6c9Qk7mcT9VN_L2oMTvdNSAtI_FYQXRyTYCUD9e6YxqvYbU366lw

Prohibition failure is due, firstly, to the fact that you can fight criminals and criminal organizations but it is next to impossible to wage war on a thing. A second consideration is that enforcing prohibition currently implies prosecuting the most vulnerable populations and non-violent offences. Third, it seems pointless and cruel to persecute people who end up using drugs because of their mental health.

Patrick Hennessey, former British Officer Grenadier Guards, Barrister, referred to the war in Afghanistan when he served, and the way this war is tied to poppy production and the enormous amount of soldiers convicted for drug use in service…

James Duffy, former UK Police Inspector explained how the issue is that drug dealers do not ask their buyers for ID so, with drugs the way things are, anything goes. So what we have are unknown chemicals being sold by unknown salesmen to unknown buyers.

A retired Chief Constable pointed to why there is increasing violence in the UK. An example he gave was the theft of a crate of Falstaff, which can be solved by going to the police but when a kilo of cocaine is stolen, traffickers have to solve this among themselves, almost always resorting to violence.

According to Paul Whitehouse, a retired Police Constable of Sussex, what the police are proposing in practice is taking a social and holistic approach: looking into the reasons behind the user’s consumption, their living circumstances, family issues and to try to help them solve his pressing issues. Then money, which had previously been used to enforce the MDA, could, for example, be allocated to helping drug users find gainful employment. This is a more positive approach as opposed to prosecuting people who are already hard up financially.

From the director of LEAP Germany, Hubert Wimber we learnt that there is ongoing and comprehensive access to Needle Exchange services, aside from in Bavaria. What is commonplace is that 75% of drug arrests are for possession for personal use, which means that people who are not doing any harm except maybe to themselves, are being detained.

The fact is that an enormous amount of money is invested in drug prohibition approximately 11 billion pounds a year with 33% of this going to prosecuting fraud tied to crack, cocaine and opiate deals. Meanwhile, one of the worst “unintended” consequences of the drugwar prevails, that is the disenfranchisement of mostly poor communities (though not exclusively), due to drug policy. Officers who are routinely and frequently on the front-line, could make a real difference that does not infer punishment unless there behaviour affects others in a serious way.

We’ll give the last word to a woman X Undercover cop, who sounded repentant:

Suzanne Sharkey (pictured above): Former Constable and Undercover Officer at Northumbria Constabulary

“When I look back at my time in the police I feel ashamed, I feel a sense of failure. I feel ashamed that I wasn’t arresting career criminals. I was arresting people from poor socially deprived areas with little or no hope whose crime was non-violent drug possession, a complete failure of the war on drugs. I believe that one of the biggest barriers for people with problematic substance misuse to seeking help and treatment is the current drug policy. It does nothing, it achieves nothing except creating more harm for individuals, families and society as a whole. All of us know the problems and what we need to do but rather than be united by the problems let’s be united by the solutions. Solutions based in health, education and compassion rather than criminalisation.”


Pic by Katherine Rohan of the GlobalNet21

Maria Mercedes Moreno (left) @ the “Need for Drug Law Reform UK” – Mar 25th with Leigh

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2 Responses to “LEAP UK LAUNCH”

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