CRACKDOWN ON DINNER PARTY DRUGS
Casual Cocaine Use Angers New Met Chief
The new head of Scotland Yard took a swipe at London's white collar and
celebrity drug culture yesterday by threatening to arrest weekend consumers
of cocaine at dinner parties and in clubs and bars. Sir Ian Blair, who took
over as the UK's most senior police officer yesterday, said there were an
increasing number of people who saw no harm in having the odd "wrap of
charlie" at the weekend.
But he promised to make an example of casual users in an attempt to show
that no one is above the law. "I think there are a group of people in the
capital who believe they are in some way taking harm-free cocaine," said
Sir Ian. "I'm not interested in what harm it is doing to them personally.
But the price of that cocaine is misery on the streets of London's estates
and blood on the roads to Colombia and Afghanistan.
"People think it is okay to use cocaine but I do not think it is okay. We
will have to do something about it by making a few examples of people so
that they understand."
The new Metropolitan commissioner stressed his officers would still target
the drug-dealing "Mr Bigs", and would use assets recovery law to confiscate
their profits. But he issued a stern rebuke to middle-class and celebrity
drug users that they could expect no leniency. He said it was
"disappointing" that James Hewitt, one-time lover of Princess Diana, had
received only a caution for cocaine possession.
People were having dinner parties where they drink less wine and snort more
cocaine. "The tests on the toilet seats of various clubs will tell you an
awful lot of cocaine is going on in the centre of London and people think
it is exempt from policing. There are no areas of the capital which are
exempt from the law on drugs."
Petra Maxwell, press officer for independent drugs information
organisation, DrugScope, said the price of illegal drugs, including
cocaine, had dropped dramatically in the past few years as the number of
casual users rose. She said even recreational cocaine users should not
underestimate the health risks, but it was debatable whether arresting them
was the best use of police resources. British Crime Survey figures for
2002-03 showed 642,000 people in England and Wales admitted taking cocaine
within the past year, and 275,000 said they had taken it in the last month.
Ms Maxwell said a DrugScope survey last year found a gram of cocaine had
fallen from UKP70 to UKP50 in London, and cost just UKP30 in Nottingham and
"It's not cheap but many young people earning decent salaries would easily
spend that on drinks on a night out in London," she said. "Cocaine is a
harmful drug. It can cause heart problems and other illnesses and while it
is psychologically rather than physically addictive, trying to come off can
bring on anxiety attacks and associated symptoms.
"However, you could argue that casual cocaine users are often people who
can afford their drug habit and the only crime they are guilty of is
drug-taking, and that the police might be better off concentrating on
dealers and some other class A drug users of crack cocaine and heroin, who
are associated with all sorts of crime."