Friday 6 March 2020
Following the publication of our report, 'What is driving serious violence: drugs', Crest was invited to present to a panel of cross-party MPs and peers.
Last week, Harvey Redgrave shared the findings from our latest report into the drivers of serious violence to the joint All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform, chaired by Sir Crispin Blunt MP, and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Knife Crime, chaired by Sarah Jones MP.
It was a pleasure to be joined by Paul Andell, senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Suffolk, and Arnold Yousaf, SOS+ Project Development Lead at St Giles Trust. Each speaker was given 10 minutes to present their research, followed by time for a Q&A session which gave the floor an opportunity to find out more about each project.
Paul examined the impact of the criminalisation of drugs and existence of an illicit drugs market, Arnold discussed the reduction of county lines exploitation and youth violent crime from the perspective of a frontline worker, and Harvey looked at the broad relationship between the drugs market and violent crime. What was made clear was that the relationship between serious violence and drugs is alive and thriving both in cities and across county lines as supply and demand continues to rise. All speakers then made a variety of recommendations that the government should take to tackle these major issues.
While each of the presentations took on a different perspective of the issue, they reached the same conclusion - there is a need to reshape the drug market. Paul suggested that central coordination is needed alongside local governance, therefore more thorough examination is needed into primary legislation on drug use. Arnold followed with a more individual-level approach, suggesting that we can disrupt county lines through altering the mindset towards involvement in drug crime, particularly among the youth who are being groomed into gang activity. Harvey looked at the need for tougher enforcement alongside prevention to disrupt drug markets across the UK. Despite the expansion of drug markets, there has been a dramatic fall in drug-related enforcement. He suggested that the Home Office should therefore work with PCCs to ensure there is a targeted drugs unit within every force in England and Wales.
Discussion was lively after each presentation was finished, as the floor opened to the cross-party audience to ask questions. Harvey’s point on tougher enforcement led Baroness Meacher to ask if he believed that arrests should be prioritised over prevention. Harvey was quick to clarify that strengthened enforcement did not mean arresting people for possession of a small amount of drugs but rather for drug trafficking offences. He acknowledged that government cuts in policing budgets had affected the rate of arrests, yet the significant fall in successful prosecutions for drug trafficking offences formed a part of the wider picture of the problem.
The meeting rounded up with Sir Crispin looking to the future, speaking of hopes to get the voluntary, nonprofit and for profit sectors working together to effectively utilise all resources in society to assist individuals both in rehabilitation and above all, prevention.