Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Britain Aims to Cut Drug-Related Crime in Half by 2008 ; Antidrug Initiative Announced Sept. 26 Includes Mandatory Testing for Suspects

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Britain Aims to Cut Drug-Related Crime in Half by 2008 ; Antidrug Initiative Announced Sept. 26 Includes Mandatory Testing for Suspects

Article excerpt

Echoing worries elsewhere in Europe and in the United States about the link between illegal drugs and crime, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has signaled major changes in British law. The proposals are meeting opposition from civil-liberties groups.

Citing concern for his two teenage sons and the peer pressure to use drugs, Mr. Blair used his Labour Party's annual conference Sept. 26 to announce the new measures, which will include forcing all criminal suspects to undergo a drug test at the time of arrest. It will be the first time a British government has proposed compulsory testing before cases reach court.

New laws will also require criminals on probation or serving community sentences to be tested randomly for drugs.

Blair said that when Queen Elizabeth II reopens Parliament next month, "There will be a crime and justice bill, and drugs will be its main focus." He added, "We will be looking at some of the key issues that all governments have ducked for far too long."

Home Secretary Jack Straw said government statistics showed the link between illegal drug use and crime was "huge and very disturbing." He estimated there were some 200,000 "problem" drug users in England and Wales, and that 60,000 were arrested each year. "Each of those will have been committing scores, if not hundreds, of crimes in order to feed their habit," he said. If an arrested person was found to be using hard drugs, the police in future would oppose bail.

Mr. Straw said the government's "ambitious" target is to reduce drug-related crime by 25 percent by 2005 and to halve it by 2008.

Straw has experienced the problem of drugs in his own family. Last year, his teenage son was arrested by London police for purchasing marijuana in what turned out to be a case of entrapment by a London newspaper.

Drug abuse is of rising concern across Europe. …

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