Boris promises the impossible - to 'cut off the head' of the illegal drugs trade over next decade


BORIS Johnson today vowed to do something no government has ever managed before - to stamp out "the scourge of drug crime and the violence it brings to our streets."

The Prime Minister has pledged to "cut off the head of the snake" of the illegal drugs trade.

Mr Johnson has announced a "massive investment to crack down on drugs and dismantle 2,000 more county lines (drug networks)."

He said that "£300 million will be invested in pursuing and closing down the ruthless gangs who exploit and threaten our most vulnerable in society for financial gain through the illegal drugs trade."

The commitment is part of the Government’s 10-year Drugs Strategy published today (Monday December 6) to "tackle both the supply and demand for narcotics."

The Government will also publish a White Paper in due course which will look at new measures to reduce demand and deter people from illegal drug use through "more meaningful consequences."

Mr Johnson said this could include drug users having passports and driving licences confiscated.

He said: “We need to look at new ways of penalising them. Things that will actually interfere with their lives.

“So we will look at taking away their passports and driving licences.

“What I want to see is a world in which we have penalties for lifestyle drug users that will seriously interfere with their enjoyment of their own lifestyles.”

He said he was particularly keen to target middle class drug users who take them at dinner parties.

The civil penalties will be modelled on sanctions already used against parents who fail to pay child maintenance and banning orders for football hooligans.

Mr Johnson added: “Drugs are a scourge on our society, fuelling violence on our streets which communities across the country are forced to endure.

"That’s why, to cut crime and truly level up across the country, we must step up efforts to wipe out the vile county lines gangs who are blighting our neighbourhoods, exploiting children and ruining lives.

“Backed by record investment, the strategy we’re setting out today will attack supply and break the county lines model which sees criminals profit from people’s misery. Those who break the law will have nowhere to hide.”

The plan will also see the Government commit to the largest ever single increase in investment in treatment and recovery for drug addicts.

There are more than 300,000 heroin and crack addicts in England who, between them, are responsible for nearly half of acquisitive crime, which includes burglaries, robberies and shop thefts.

Drugs are also the cause of nearly half of all homicides in the country.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Whole communities experience the misery caused by this minority, which comes with a cost to society, in England alone, of nearly £20billion a year.

"Overall crime (excluding fraud and computer misuse) has fallen by 14 percent over the last two years, and an additional 11,053 police officers have already been recruited thanks to a government campaign.

"We have also taken action to remove thousands of weapons (almost 16,000 in 2020) from the streets, zone in on serious violence and homicide hotspots, and fund crime prevention measures so everyone feels safer in public spaces.

"However, we know that the most deprived areas of the country continue to be those with the highest levels of drug driven crime."

Police crackdowns in the last three years have already seen 1,500 county lines drugs networks shut down, with more than 7,400 arrests and the alleged safeguarding of more than 4,000 vulnerable adults and children.

Home Secretary Priti Patel (above) said: “Crimes including theft, burglary and knife crime are falling, there are an additional 11,053 police officers on our streets, and by working with our outstanding police and law enforcement agencies, we have closed 1,500 drugs lines.

“But it is clear that the drugs trade is still driving so much crime – we must do more to prevent these ruthless gangs ruining lives, tearing apart communities and exploiting young people.

“This Strategy will help to relentlessly pursue the kingpins behind these supply lines, making our streets safer.”

In the first three years of the plan, the Government claims it will:

* Commit to dismantling over 2,000 county lines and making thousands more arrests

  • Carry out 6,400 disruptions against the activities of organised criminals - an increase of 20 percent

  • Invest up to £145 million in the County Lines Programme, continuing to bring line holders to justice, targeting the road and rail networks and protecting those exploited and supporting them to rebuild their lives.

  • Strengthen the dedicated Organised Crime Partnerships preventing the wholesale supply of drugs to neighbourhood dealers.

  • Expand Drug Testing on Arrest: supporting police forces to test more individuals and directing them towards treatment or other relevant interventions.

  • Develop Out of Court Disposal (OOCD) projects ensuring those who misuse drugs face tougher consequences. This will see an expansion of forces that will run new schemes focused on encountering and intervening with a wide range of individuals, at an early stage. Options for intervention include community resolutions and attendance at drug awareness courses with criminal sanctions possible for those who continue to use drugs.

  • Pilot a behaviour change campaign, testing messages at university campuses to understand what works in discouraging drug misuse at an early stage.

  • Give judges power to order drug testing of anyone serving a community sentence whose offending is related to drug use by legislating through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. If they test positive they could be in breach of their order and liable to be resentenced to a custodial sentence.

  • Contact clients based on drug dealers’ seized phones with a range of messages to discourage their drug use and direct them to support. This will help to ensure that no one is, or should feel, anonymous when they buy illicit drugs.

Chris Farrimond, Director of Threat leadership at the National Crime Agency (NCA) said: “Illegal drugs have a catastrophic impact on our communities. They destroy lives, have a corrosive effect on the environment and erode the UK’s economy.

"The NCA works closely with partners across the system to tackle the most harmful organised crime groups responsible for the trafficking of class A drugs to the UK.

"So far this year, over 120 tonnes of cocaine have been seized as a result of NCA activity.

"We have more than 300 ongoing investigations, both at home and abroad, specifically focusing on class A drugs.

“We have worked with Government partners on the ten year drugs strategy and will continue to suppress the dynamic drugs market, taking out of circulation those exploitative, violent and connected individuals and crime groups intent on causing harm to our communities”.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for County Lines, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty, said: "County lines drug dealing is linked to the most serious violence and abuse of vulnerable young people, and we are committed to doing everything we can to bring these criminals to justice.

"Additional funding will support police in stopping these abhorrent criminals, protect young people and protect our communities from the misery caused by county lines."

Niamh Eastwood, executive director of thinktank Release, said: “While increased funding for drug treatment is welcomed, the focus on more punitive sentences for people who supply drugs is a

continuation of a tired tough-on-drugs narrative, one that we have had in the UK for decades.

"This failed policy will do little to address the high rates of drug-related deaths, which over the last decade have increased year on year, with some of the highest rates in Europe.

“While New York announces the opening of drug consumption rooms, Germany moves to legalise cannabis, as many US states and Canada have already done, and over 30 countries have ended criminal sanctions for possession of drugs – Britain is going backwards, embracing a Nixon-style ‘war on drugs’ approach.”

Yvette Cooper, the new shadow home secretary, said: “Too often the government makes grand promises, but then fails to deliver or does the opposite. Drug use is up, serious violence is up, antisocial behaviour is up. "More and more offenders are getting away with their crimes as overall prosecutions have plummeted. Any action from the government must be substantial enough to undo the damage they have caused.”


ESSEX NEWS AND INVESTIGATIONS OPINION


If ever you wanted to give yourself an uphill struggle it would be pledging to end or seriously impede drugs crime.

Boris Johnson has vowed to "cut off the head of the snake of the illegal drugs trade."

He will soon find that rather than a single head, he will be dealing with a Medusa of snakes heads, which grow back once they are chopped off.

Successive governments have vowed to deal with the UK's drug epidemic and successive governments have failed to do this.

Boris is heading a government that has made lots of pledges in recent years and failed to deliver on the majority of them.

Look at former Home Secretary Amber Rudd's Serious Violence Strategy announced in April 2018 in response to high numbers if gang related murders.

A government serious crime task force was set up and disbanded within two years.

Youth murders remain at higher levels than in 2018.

In December the same year then Home Secretary Sajid Javid declared a "national incident" when migrants began crossing the Channel and vowed to return any who were not genuine asylum seekers.

The number of migrants making the crossing has since gone on to grow each year since including in 2021.

Boris Johnson and Priti Patel have both since pledged to deal with the crisis, with absolutely no success.

The term "epic fail" springs to mind and it will be the buzz phrase in ten years when this latest pledge amounts to very little or nothing.