Criminal Justice in Europe: A Comparative Study

By Phil Fennell; Christopher Harding et al. | Go to book overview
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Such a drugs policy is likely to take the shape of a war on drugs, such as that in the United States. Taking the USA as an example, the results of such a policy could be an increase in the number of addicts, an increase in violence in urban areas due to increased violent interaction in the drug market, police corruption, a deterioration in both the health and social situation of addicts. If these are the likely results of a war on drugs it is clear that such a solution is not suggested as a practical solution to the problem but rather as an outward manifestation of moral indignation at the use of, and traffic in, drugs. It has seemed to many, especially in European cities, that this is a high price to pay for moral purity. They fear a recourse to a war on drugs because they will have to deal with the consequences of such a moral crusade. To show their fear of such an outcome these cities have drawn up the Frankfurter Resolution, which asks for harm reduction to be adopted as the main target of any drugs policy, and they take the example of the Netherlands as the approach to be embraced. Unfortunately those in power have not given much credence to harm reduction policy. It seems likely that in time the Netherlands will be forced to retreat from its practical harm reduction strategies and to increase strict law-enforcement policies. Britain, because of its physical separation from the Continent and its refusal to accept Schengen, may be slightly less controlled by these European harmonization procedures and may therefore be able to progress with practical policies of harm reduction such as those presently practised in the Netherlands and those recommended by the recent ACPO conference.53


Drugs are harmful. Drugs may damage an individual psychologically or physically and can even lead to death, usually as the result of an overdose. However, most drug-related deaths and much of the physical damage caused by drugs result from the impurities which are 'cut' into them to increase the profits (a direct result of criminalization). Users may become physically or psychologically dependent, and the means of administration may cause damage, especially needle-sharing. Serious social consequences arise from general public health considerations, from family break-up, from child neglect, from accidents caused by drug use (including road accidents), from foetal damage, and from the loss or reduction of the economic usefulness of the individual. Other social ills such as drug-related crime are largely a result of its criminalization. It may be necessary to try to separate those genuinely in need of, and more likely to respond to, treatment from

See Guardian, Friday 14 May 1993.


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