Professionals should face drug testing, says Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe
Met Police Commissioner said action was needed to discourage demand
He said testing could take place in 'all occupations', but in particular teachers, intensive care nurses and transport staff
Millions of professionals should face mandatory drug testing at work, Britain’s most senior police officer has suggested.
Anyone who failed a test and refused help to get clean should lose their job, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner said as well as ‘robust’ policing of dealers, action was needed to discourage the demand for illegal substances. He said testing could take place in ‘all occupations’ but cited in particular teachers, intensive care nurses and transport staff.
In a speech to the all-party parliamentary group on cannabis and children, Sir Bernard said drug testing and the fear of losing their job would act as a deterrent for drug users. He said: ‘It seems to me we have got to plant in people’s minds something to affect the demand as well as supply. You can think of many occupations where if you were working with a colleague you would want to be sure in fact that they were drug free.’
Employers who discovered a staff member abusing drugs would not have to turn ‘informant’ and tell the police, he added.
Anyone caught with drugs in their system should be offered help to stop, he said – but anyone who refused that help should suffer ‘consequences, which would probably be about their employment’.
The suggestion that workers should be drug tested is likely to cause outrage among trade unions. It will also raise civil liberties concerns. In America, however, random drug testing is already prevalent – and widely accepted – in workplaces, with staff tested in the retail, financial, manufacturing, education and health sectors.
Companies say that the tests are not just carried out for safety reasons, but also to identify theft risk, employee reliability and improve productivity.
During his speech, Sir Bernard told the group of his concerns that parents born in the 60s and 70s when cannabis was weaker are failing to warn their children about the dangers of super strength skunk.
He said the potency of cannabis has increased five-fold in the last half century but many parents were unaware of the damage it can do to young brains.
Teenagers who smoke new powerful strains of skunk run the risk of developing schizophrenia in later life, and must be told they are taking a ‘major’ health risk.
Sir Bernard warned any move away from a ‘robust’ approach would lead to even younger children taking the drug and even more serious damage to their health.
His hard line approach also marks him apart from other senior officers who in recent years have called for a more relaxed approach to enforcing drugs laws, especially around cannabis.
As Chief Constable of Merseyside, Sir Bernard was credited with adopting a zero tolerance approach known as ‘Total Policing’, which included a relentless crackdown on drug dealers.
Sir Bernard told the group he had never smoked cannabis and had only smoked one cigarette, when he was seven years old.
His comments on Monday night are at odds with a series of parliamentary reports in recent months calling for a more permissive approach to drugs. First the home affairs select committee called for cannabis to move from Class B to Class C. Then, the all-party parliamentary group for drug policy reform called for possession of heroin and ecstasy to be decriminalised.
Campaigner Mary Brett, of charity Cannabis Skunk Sense, said: ‘It is refreshing to hear a senior police officer who is deeply aware of the dangers of today’s cannabis. It is also reassuring to hear one who is unafraid of enforcing the law and taking on drug dealers.’
Jack Doyle for The Daily Mail
30th January 2013
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