Going soft on cannabis is the worst thing I've seen in 28 years' policing, says stab horror officer.
A senior police officer delivered a fierce attack on the reclassification of cannabis yesterday after a long-term user who ignored medical pleas to kick the habit was jailed for murdering his girlfriend.
Detective Superintendent Andy West said the decision to downgrade the drug from Class B to C was the 'worst thing' he had seen in 28 years of policing.
He spoke out after a judge jailed Marc Middlebrook for the murder of Stephanie Barton, a 32-year-old trainee accountant.
Middlebrook, the 27-year- old son of a teacher, had been a cannabis user for ten years when he stabbed Miss Barton 15 times with three knives as she lay naked in his bed.
The former agricultural college student had become convinced she was part of a conspiracy to kill him.
He admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility but was convicted of murder at Lincoln Crown Court after prosecutors said he 'stubbornly' ignored doctors' advice to stop using the drug.
After Middlebrook was jailed for life yesterday and ordered to serve a minimum 13 years, Mr West, who led the police investigation, said: 'I have stood here five or six times and I have listened to excuses put forward by young people about the amount of alcohol they have drunk, hard drugs they have taken and how it's diminished their responsibility.
'Today it's about cannabis. You have to take responsibility. As a police officer of 28 years I can say the worst thing legislators did was to reduce the classification of cannabis to Class C and we are now starting to see the long-term issues of this drug.
'This man is going to serve over 12 years so when people say this is a safe drug I don't agree.'
He added: 'I believe legislators need to take a look at the evidence that is starting to emerge regarding the use of cannabis, particularly as the substance has been in circulation now for some two or three generations.
'The idea of drug use being used as a line of defence worries me.'
Mr West, of Lincolnshire Police, spoke out as Home Secretary Jacqui Smith moved ahead with plans to end Labour's four-year experiment with downgrading the drug, by returning it to its former Class B grading.
Critics claim it is a toothless crackdown however as this week she introduced a 'three strikes' policy under which only third time offenders caught with cannabis would be arrested.
Mr West was backed by Middlebrook's father Colin Gigner, an engineer, who said: 'Government policy should be tougher on drugs. That would have changed things. This wouldn't have happened.'
Miss Barton's mother, Jackie, added: 'There is a risk attached to any abuse of any drug.'
Police were called to Middlebrook's home in Boston, Lincolnshire, on December 4 last year after he sent a text message to Miss Barton's mother.
It said: 'Hopefully you'll be better off without me. I love you. I love her, but it had gone too far.'
Officers broke in and found Miss Barton's body on the bed.
Middlebrook, who had been going out with her for five months, was also naked and had cut his neck and wrists in a failed suicide attempt.
Police and paramedics reported the pungent smell of cannabis in the room and empty beer cans.
Middlebrook told police he acted because he feared for his life and that 'she was in cahoots with a group of lads who are trying to kill me'.
A post-mortem examination found Miss Barton had also smoked cannabis before her death.
The case is the latest involving a cannabis user who carried out a violent crime.
Last month, Kamuzu Munroe was sent to a secure hospital after stabbing a stranger to death at a bus stop in East London. The paranoid-schizophrenic was high on cannabis at the time of the attack.
Daniel Wilson, 28, was sent to a secure hospital indefinitely last year for knifing his father to death after becoming convinced he had abused him as a child.
A Home Office spokesman yesterday said ministers were increasingly concerned about the use of stronger strains of cannabis.
'That is why we are reclassifying cannabis to Class B from January 29 2009. We are not prepared to "wait and see" on the potential mental health effects.'
# Andrew Levy
# Mail Online
# October 17, 2008