London Scheme To "Avoid Cannabis Prosecution"

Liz Filmer
04 Jan 2022

Young people caught with cannabis in selected boroughs of London will avoid prosecution under plans from London Mayor Sadiq Khan. However, the London mayor has denied reports that he is moving towards "decriminalising" drugs in the capital city. He has insisted that he does not have the power to do so.

The ambitious trial scheme would see young people of 18 to 24 caught with a "small amount" of cannabis in their possession avoid arrest and prosecution. In the area covered by the initiative, those who fit the scheme's criteria would be offered courses on the dangers of drug use.

The Daily Telegraph has reported that an extension of the scheme to cover all Class B drugs - including ketamine and speed was under consideration - but a spokesman for the mayor has denied this.
The pilot initiative will reportedly cover the three boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley.

A spokesman for Mr Kahn has told how the Mayor "firmly believes that drug use, and the crimes related to it, are preventable and not inevitable".
Adding: "We know that we'll never be able to arrest our way out of the problem. This is why we continue to work on schemes that provide young people with support and education. This is preferable to putting them through the criminal justice system. Diverting them away from drug use and crime for good." 

The funding needed for the scheme is waiting on approval and will be announced by the end of January. This announcement comes after criticism faced by the metropolitan police over the weekend when they shared showing officers drug testing revellers on a night out in the Capital.

Video footage posted on the social media platform Twitter showed officers swabbing hands and searching a man, and swabbing the hands of others on the streets of Shoreditch.

The Met claimed that the footage was "part of a wider operation to ensure the nighttime economy was a safe place for all". However, the video prompted hundreds of comments, with many querying the legality of the police action. Many compared it to the Met's decision not to investigate "those" alleged COVID-rule breaking "cheese and wine"  gatherings held in Downing Street last Christmas.

One Twitter user commented: "Bit weird because if they had drugs already in their system, it would be a historical crime, and we know you don't investigate those." A media law consultant who also viewed the footage asked police, "A lot of people are asking under what legal power you were doing this. Can you explain?"

The day after the footage was shared, the Met Police posted a statement defending their actions. They explained that the drug swabbing was part of a "week of action" in December to protect women's safety.
The force said it was working with two licensed venues to swab people for drugs, which was a condition of entry into the venues.
"It was made clear to those wanting to attend the venues that the swabbing was voluntary," the Met Police said.
"Refusal did not automatically mean that the police would search the person under S23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act."

Liz Filmer