Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Children at Risk in Lambeth Drug Trial,admits Met Chief

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Children at Risk in Lambeth Drug Trial,admits Met Chief

Article excerpt

Byline: ANNE MCELVOY

SIR JOHN STEVENS has admitted that an alleged increase in cannabis use by children in Lambeth - where a "softly-softly" policy on cannabis users is under way - is "incredibly worrying".

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner called for the penalties on selling the drug to children to be substantially increased. In an interview with the Standard, Sir John indicated for the first time publicly that the Met is unhappy about the progress of the pilot scheme and says he shares concerns of local critics.

He said: "Children are massively vulnerable. I do not think that anything that exposes children to more contact with drugs should be tolerated."

Sir John added that "risky" schemes and pilot projects had to be weighed up carefully to judge their effectiveness.

He said: "A lot of people are worried and we have to listen to their concerns carefully. There have been too many mixed messages in Lambeth, which has led some people to believe that there will be no enforcement of the law."

His remarks will be interpreted as a clear signal that the Met is unhappy about the Government's impending reclassification of cannabis to a class C drug without simultaneous steps to protect children. Sir John said: "These suppliers are the real enemies of the people and they have to be stopped."

The "softly-softly" scheme, launched last July by Lambeth police chief Brian Paddick, was intended to free police time to concentrate on other tasks. But it has been heavily criticised by community leaders and residents who fear that it will turn Lambeth into a haven for drug suppliers and users who regard soft drug use as effectively legal in the borough.

Commander Paddick has since been moved to a desk job pending an inquiry into claims that he smoked cannabis with a boyfriend.

Sir John called for a "significant toughening" of punishments for supplying class C drugs to children to address the fears raised by parents, community workers and the local MP, Kate Hoey. …

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