Exclusive: Sadiq Khan to begin decriminalising drugs in London – Telegraph.co.uk
Sadiq Khan is to begin decriminalising drugs in London and plans to end the prosecution of young people caught with cannabis, The Telegraph has learned.
Under-25s found with Class B drugs in some boroughs will be offered speeding course-style classes or counselling instead of arrest, under a pilot scheme to be launched.
The boroughs of Lewisham, Bexley and Greenwich will be subject to the rules of the new scheme, with police officers told not to arrest young people caught with cannabis, ketamine or speed.
Offenders will instead be taken back to their family homes and kept away from police custody.
The move will set Mr Khan on a collision course with the Government and Labour leadership, which have both stressed the need for tougher action on drug users to reduce demand for criminal activity.
Sir Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, has said he does not believe decriminalisation should be pursued in England, after a similar scheme was introduced in Scotland last year.
Mr Khan may find an ally on the Labour frontbench in David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, who has previously endorsed a similar scheme, which he said would help tackle racial injustice.
The Government has recently unveiled its drugs strategy, which has a strong emphasis on targeting recreational users, including by removing the passports of those caught with Class A substances such as cocaine.
The Telegraph understands that Mr Khan’s pilot will be announced this month, and will be spearheaded by Damien Egan, the mayor of Lewisham.
The London mayor’s team has seen research suggesting that police time could be better spent on serious and violent crime, rather than dealing with those caught with cannabis.
Between 2016 and 2020, nine in 10 drug proceedings brought against young people in Lewisham were for cannabis possession, while young black men in the borough were 2.4 times more likely to be stopped and searched for drugs in the same period.
During his last election campaign, Mr Khan pledged to set up a London Drugs Commission to review whether cannabis possession should be decriminalised.
However, under the plans presented to his police and crime team, The Telegraph understands that the amnesty may extend to all Class B drugs, which would also effectively decriminalise ketamine and amphetamines, known as “speed”.
Young people ‘diverted’ to drugs courses
Although carrying the drugs would technically remain illegal, the Metropolitan Police is understood to have agreed that officers will not pursue drug charges against people caught in the three boroughs in south London participating in the scheme.
Instead, under a process known as “diversion”, young people will instead be offered a course to educate them on the dangers of drug use, similar to that offered to motorists who have been caught speeding.
Youth workers, rather than the police, will lead the rehabilitation process, with under-25s also offered counselling if necessary.
Similar schemes have previously been trialled by police and crime commissioners in Somerset, Durham, and in the West Midlands, but the latest pilot will be the first of its kind in the capital.