SCOTLAND has made a first step in tackling the country’s unprecedented high number of drug related deaths by giving police the power to issue a recorded warning rather than arresting a person found in possession of a Class A drug.
The move was welcomed by local drug reform campaigner Alex Armitage, who described the replacement of mandatory arrest as a “significant step in the reduction of harm”.
In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC said police already had powers to issue warnings for the possession of Class B and C drugs and this would now be extended to include Class A drugs.
She warned that the move should not be seen as a step towards “decriminalising” the possession of drugs, as issuing a warning still represented an enforcement of law.
The new policy does not extend to any allegations of the supply of illegal drugs.
Armitage, a member of the local branch of the Scottish Greens, said: “People who use drugs are some of the most vulnerable in our society and suffer from high rates of psychological trauma. In making this announcement public, the Lord Advocate has sent a strong message to counter the stigma. People need help, not criminalisation.
“Many frontline police officers witness the harm that criminalisation does, and will be relieved that they no longer have to contribute to the structural violence that is embedded in the UK’s drugs laws.”
The Lord Advocate said: “Any alternative to prosecution: warnings, fines or diversion, are offers only. An accused person always has the right to reject such an offer and there will be cases where prosecution is the appropriate response in the public interest.
“The range of options available to police, prosecutors and courts reflects the fact that in Scotland there is no one size fits all response to an individual found in possession of a controlled substance or an individual dependent on drugs.”
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