By Roland Sebestyén
People caught with drugs won’t have to face charges after Scotland’s lord advocate has announced a new policy to Holyrood.
According to The Times, Dorothy Bain QC’s announcement – “a diversion from prosecution” – was a surprise.
Scotland’s most senior law officer told the MSPs: “Police officers may therefore choose to issue a recorded police warning for simple possession offences for all classes of drugs.
In Scotland, police officers can hand out warnings for all those caught in possession of Class B and Class C drugs; under the new guidelines, this practice will be extended to Class A drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, Ecstasy and LSD.
Bain added: “The purpose of the scheme is for individuals to be referred to a mentor to provide support at the first point of contact with police.”
The Times reports that according to the new policy, the warnings are recorded on the criminal history system for two years and can be taken into account should a person again come to the attention of the police.
Annemarie Ward, the chief executive of Faces and Voices of Recovery Scotland, a policy advocacy movement, welcomed the change in the policy but urged for more action as decriminalisation alone would “not help people to get well on its own.”
Not everyone is delighted about the reform, though. Jamie Green, the Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, said decriminalisation is not the solution Scotland should implement to tackle the problems regarding extensive drug use on the streets.
He said: “Scotland’s drug death crisis is our national shame but the way to tackle it is to improve access to treatment and rehabilitation, not to dilute how seriously we treat possession of deadly drugs like heroin, crystal meth and crack cocaine.
“The answer to our drugs crisis is more access to treatment, not this de facto decriminalisation by the back door of drugs that are the scourge of our streets and our society.”