Orders of the Day — Drugs (Sentencing and Commission of Inquiry) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:44 am on 25th February 2005.

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Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley 9:44 am, 25th February 2005

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her kind comments. I know that she has taken a particular interest in that aspect. We cannot simply lock up people who are convicted of drug or alcohol-related crimes and throw away the key. We must ensure that programmes are properly funded and that they relate to the crime for which a prisoner has been convicted. In the case of alcohol-related crime, we must make sure there are properly funded programmes to help people off their addiction to that product.

More than a million violent crimes associated with the use of drugs are committed every year. Overall crime is up by 16 per cent. and violent crime is up by 80 per cent. That increase is being fuelled by the drug culture. Drug crime and possession has gone up by 4 per cent. Around three quarters of heroin or cocaine users commit crime in order to obtain those drugs. Persistent drug-misusing offenders commit almost 10 times as many crimes as people arrested who do not use drugs. The new English and Welsh arrestee drug abuse monitoring project known as NEW-ADAM provides detailed analysis of the association between drug use and crime. The results of the first two years of the NEW-ADAM programme were published in 2004. The programme involves interviewing and voluntary drug testing of those arrested by the police in 16 custody suites in England and Wales. Arrestees are questioned about their drug use and their offending behaviour in relation to acquisitive crime.

The results are shocking—57 per cent. of arrestees reported having used a class A drug in the past 12 months; 48 per cent. of arrestees reported using heroin, crack or cocaine in the past 12 months; and 75 per cent. of those who had used crack in the past year reported committing one or more acquisitive crimes in the same period. It is our children about whom we should be concerned. More than 50,000 young people in the United Kingdom are addicted to hard drugs. That is 50,000 too many.

According to official figures, almost one in 10 prosecutions fail because of procedural mistakes by the Crown Prosecution Service, and even if a conviction is secured, sentences are often too lenient and fail to reflect the gravity of the offence. That is clearly the case with drug sentencing, and it is why the current punishments are not doing enough to deter people from a life of crime.

The first part of my Bill sets a mandatory seven-year jail sentence if a dealer is caught selling class A drugs for the third time.