The Scottish police forces can now warn a person found in possession of Class A drugs instead of sending them for prosecution. Issuing of formal warning was already being done, but only for lower category drugs. But in-order to address Scotland’s drug death crisis, authorities have found it pertinent to include the Class A drugs under this rule.
Lord Advocate Dorothy commented on the decision to include the high-rated drugs and highlighted the need to rectify issues leading to a surge in the drug death crisis [Source]. Various politicians backed up this move as it could help to reduce the deaths. The Conservatives appreciated this plan and said it would lead to “de facto decriminalization” of deadly substances. Decriminalization of dangerous substances has proved to work miracles in protecting citizens from overdosing and curbing any drug-related deaths.
In Scotland, 722 suspected drug deaths were recorded [Source]. This figure was for the first half of the year, which means it will rise significantly by the end of the year. These deaths were attributed to “misuse of drugs” [Source], which attracted relevant government officials who sought to rectify the situation. Since 2018, Scotland has been surpassing all the other European countries with high drug-related deaths.
In 2020, the drug-related death toll of Scotland amounted to 1 339 and became the highest figure in Europe. The Scottish was then prompted to engage in a “national mission” to reduce this death toll while protecting its citizens. Ms. Bain believes that the situation is severe and the death toll showed a “public health emergency,” and they were prompted to utilize the prosecution system in solving this perennial problem.
For the possession of Class B and Class C drugs, the police officers would issue a Recorded Police Warning to anyone who committed ‘low-level’ offenses and did not pursue the matter further for one to be prosecuted. The offense included in these categories are not open to the public but can be assessed by law enforcement. Under this new strategy, “officers may choose to issue a warning for simple possession offenses for all classes of drugs.”
People should not treat their new method as a way to acquire dangerous substances since a person can still be prosecuted, as noted by Ms. Bain. She explained that each case would be treated individually, and the judgement reached will be contextual after considering other factors involved. She said that their plan could be described as “no one size fits all.” Drug dealers are excluded from evading prosecution because they are the main catalysts propagating drug abuse in communities. The police were not stripped of their ability to report serious perpetrators to prosecutors and can use their discretion in choosing the appropriate course of action.
According to Bain, they also utilized the criminal justice system to save drug users and allowed the prosecutors to refer people to social workers and counselors to get help. This applies to anyone who is accused of drug offenses and will be prone to “diversion,” where they will not be jailed but sent to get help from professionals. “Scotland’s police and prosecutors are using the powers available to them to both uphold the law and help tackle the drug death emergency,” as explained by Bain.
A favorable solution to curb drug abuse will include helping the offender. Ms. Bain said, “The most appropriate response, the smartest response in any drugs case, must be tailored to the facts and circumstances of both the alleged and the offender.”
Many government officials seem to shower this strategy with praises. Addiction charity Faces and Voices of Recovery UK welcomed these moves but urged to include more plans to solve this problem. Chief executive Annemarie Ward said, “Diversion from prosecution will prevent many people who need help and support from being forced through our criminal justice system.” Backlashes against the plan were aired out by MSP Jamie Greene, who felt that this method would cause people to take the issue of drug possession lightly.
However, both parties do concur that treating an individual is key in dealing with drug abuse problems, so this strategy is bound to produce some notable results when implemented.