Sussex Police has countered claims it is ‘turning a blind eye’ to cannabis possession.
Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, said she was ‘slightly concerned’ to hear residents’ express this perception on the campaign trail at a performance and accountability meeting last Friday (May 20).
Sussex Police Chief Constable Giles York argued it was ‘quite clear’ they were not turning a blind eye to the issue, and they were going ‘over and above’ their duties to target drug dealers.
During the meeting Assistant Chief Constable Laurence Taylor explained they had made more than 7,900 stop searches in 2015/16, and of these 4,900 were drug related, with around 1,700 positive, showing it to be an ‘effective tactic’.
The force had four different outcomes for cannabis possession ranging from a cannabis warning, to a penalty notice, community resolution, and then in some cases arrest.
Officers work on the principle that if there were no aggravating factors and an individual had no previous record they would be given a cannabis warning.
This involves confiscation of the drug, an offender being given a verbal warning, and then signing a booklet which is kept on file for three years, on the proviso that they admit possession.
Anyone under 18 caught in possession of cannabis without aggravating factors would be referred to one of the police’s partners for education around the dangers of the drug and the impact of being caught again.
Mr Taylor added: “Arrests should be the last resort of a first-time offense.”
Last year 1,005 people had been charged with possession of an illegal substance, and of these 472 related to cannabis.
Mrs Bourne asked if the force was prepared for new legislation around psychoactive substances due to come into force on May 26 banning so-called legal or chemical highs.
Mr Taylor explained that officers were aware of the impact of the legislation.
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