Mayoral plans to potentially decriminalise minor cannabis offences in some London boroughs will create problems for police officers due to inconsistency and lack of legal backing, the Metropolitan Police Federation has warned.
Chairman Ken Marsh was speaking after London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced plans to end the prosecution of young people caught with cannabis in three areas, as part of a new pilot.
Ken said he was not necessarily opposed to such a scheme, but that it needs to be properly legislated for so that officers have a clear and consistent legal basis to work with. Anything else would “muddy the waters for colleagues,” he said.
Ken said: “Any change needs to be very straightforward and very clear. Once you start telling people that you are going to pilot certain things in certain areas, you will get a free-for-all and it will make my colleagues’ jobs nigh-on impossible.
“Currently, the law clearly states what we can and cannot do in relation to drugs. The last time I checked, the Mayor was a member of the public; not someone who can change the law. If the law does change, it needs to be done through the House of Commons.”
Currently – according to reports – both Downing Street and the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said they did not endorse any further decriminalisation of drugs.
Differing guidelines across differing boroughs would be confusing for the public and be hard to enforce, Ken said. “It’s a nonsense”, he added.
Ken said: “Presumably, once members of the public start getting wind of this, police officers are going to be coming up against more and more opposition. This proposal would be setting them up to fail.”
A spokesman for the mayor of London said: “This limited trial, which is still in development and has yet to be approved by City Hall, would involve three of London’s 32 boroughs and would only apply to 18 to 24-year-olds found in possession of a small amount of cannabis. It would not apply to any other drug.
“The idea of the scheme, which is already used by other police forces across the country, would be to divert young people who are found with a small amount of cannabis away from the criminal justice system and instead provide help and support. This has been shown to reduce reoffending