Police under fire from cannabis campaigners over power saw raid – Liverpool Echo
Police faced a social media backlash after using a power saw to carve through a front door in a drug raid to seize a “small” amount of cannabis.
A storm of comments erupted on Runcorn police’s Facebook page after the unit posted a picture of the ragged remains of the door at a house on Bridgewater Street on Friday.
The police post said: “A Misuse of Drugs Act warrant was executed at an address on Bridgewater Street earlier today by Runcorn Beat Team. A quantity of drugs has been seized #HEREFORYOU.”
The picture prompted more than 800 overwhelmingly critical comments from around the country.
Among those to pan the raid was cannabis campaign group Norml UK, which accused the social media post of “boasting” about having “vandalised” the householder’s front door.
Cheshire Police told the ECHO “every case is different” and that forcing entry to an address was “often necessary.”
A blogger from feed-the-birds.com accused officers of using a “chainsaw” to force entry and illustrated the story with a mock-up picture of the character Leatherface from the film Texas Chainsaw Massacre alongside a Cheshire Constabulary badge.
Cheshire police have not denied the use of a chainsaw but said “specialist equipment” was deployed.
Another Facebook user fumed: “There’s also a very good chance that had this person had the money to go to a private clinic they would have had THE VERY SAME PLANT prescribed. The only crime being punished here is ‘being poor’.”
One social media user received over 200 likes, loves and laughing-face reactions, for contrasting cannabis to alcohol harm, saying: “I’ve been to Runcorn once.
“I’d never seen so many drunk people getting intoxicated on legal alcohol, although, not surprising as it’s so cheap in that town.
“They cause far more trouble than someone smoking a joint in the privacy of their own home, but they are probably much more difficult to arrest, so easier to go after the harmless cannabis consumers.”
Cheshire Constabulary told the ECHO officers found a “small amount of cannabis’ but refused to comment on the specific amount, saying this information would be established as part of its investigation.
A force spokesman said the warrant was looking for evidence of involvement in Class A drug activity – an allegation which the householder has roundly denied, branding it “news to me”.
The occupant also alleged that the door was sawed through while they were making dinner for their three-year-old daughter, who is now “terrified” of entering the front room.
They also have to buy a replacement door.
The situation is the inverse of that faced by a Cheshire police officer given a written warning on April 27 for not searching a suspect for drugs at a hotel in Runcorn last year when there were grounds to do so.
The contrast hints at a dilemma faced by officers in executing warrants and searches that might lead to what could be regarded as disproportionate enforcement and trivial finds, balanced against the threat of disciplinary action for not following the letter of the law.
It also comes against a backdrop of rapidly increasing liberalisation of cannabis laws around the world with multiple US states, Canada, Holland, Uruguay, New Zealand, Argentina, Belgium, Peru and Portugal among others in various states of decriminalisation for the Class B drug.
Cheshire police said warrants have to be approved by magistrates where there are “reasonable grounds to suspect an offence has been committed”.
The force spokesman said: “Officers conducted a search of the premises and recovered a small quantity of cannabis.
“No arrests were made at the address, but a 58-year-old man was spoken to by officers and is due to attend Runcorn police station at a later date where he will be interviewed under police caution.
“With regards to gaining drugs warrants and forcing entry, every case is different and in this instance it was necessary to execute a drugs warrant at the address as officers had received intelligence to suggest that the premises was being used for activity involving class A drugs.
“In order to obtain a warrant of this nature officers are required to submit an application to the magistrates’ court.
“The magistrate will only grant the warrant if they believe that the police have reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence has been committed, and that the premises needs to be searched as it may contain evidence that will be of benefit or important to a trial.
“By virtue of the nature of these types of offences, namely drugs supply/possession within an address, it is often necessary for officers to force entry into the premises.
“This is in order to gain access into the address as quickly as possible in order to prevent evidence being disposed of, as is commonly attempted.
“We have available to us a wide variety of methods of entry which are executed by specially trained officers.”
This article originally appeared here in https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/police-under-fire-cannabis-campaigners-18274721