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Dramatic increase in police seizures of class A drugs

Dramatic increase in police seizures of class A drugs

Syringe - Image credit: Kevin Karns via Flickr

There has been a dramatic increase in police seizures of class A drugs, new figures released today have shown.

The Scottish Government statistics show the amount of heroin confiscated by police doubled from 2017 to 2018, while the quantity of ecstasy taken by Police Scotland tripled.

There were 1,600 seizures of class A drugs, including cocaine, heroin and ecstasy, from 2017-18 compared to 1,562 in 2016-17.

These led to police confiscating more than 226 kg of class A illegal drugs, including nearly 120.3kg of heroin and 25.4kg of ecstasy, compared to 54.1kg of heroin and 8.6kg of ecstasy in 2017.

But the quantity of cocaine powder seized dropped from 120.3kg in 2017 to 74.4kg in 2018, although there was a small increase in seizures of crack cocaine.

In addition to the class A seizures, police also confiscated more cannabis in 2018 than in 2017.

However, the Scottish Government’s chief statistician warned that “care should be taken when comparing quantities of drugs seized over time”.

With the results fluctuating from year to year due to the types of seizures made, the statistics do not necessarily indicate a trend.

More seizures do not always lead to a larger quantity seized as this will depend on whether they were smaller seizures from possession or larger seizures from supply-related offences.

“Intelligence-led operations” against known drug dealers leading to fewer seizures but larger quantities being taken off the street than confiscation of drugs from users.

The report says: “These high-profile operations may result in greater disruption to the illicit drugs trade which, whilst having a positive effect, may reduce the number of seizures made.”

Opposition parties at Holyrood took the figures as evidence that the Scottish Government needs to do more to combat drugs in Scotland, with Labour calling it a “public health emergency”.

Scottish Labour justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson said that highlighting the amounts of drugs seized isn’t enough.

He said: “Scotland has the largest number of overdose deaths per capita in Western Europe, and more than double the number of England and Wales.

“This must be taken seriously. The government should treat the scale of the drug crisis in our communities as a public health emergency.”

Lib Dem justice spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton called for “humane proposals” to establish heroin treatment clinics.

He said: “Dramatic cuts to drug and alcohol services have had a lasting impact.

“Existing drug law enforcement strategies are failing as evidenced by the spiralling number of people dying and being hospitalised. 

“People who misuse drugs are often among the most vulnerable in our society and ministers need to take more immediate action to reduce harm.  

“Humane proposals to establish heroin assisted treatment clinics are a way of reducing harm to the individual and to society.

“We also need a crystal-clear commitment to stop sending people caught in possession of drugs for their own personal use to prison.”

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said: “Police officers are expected to do more than ever when it comes to ridding our streets of class A drugs.

“They now need to be backed up by the rest of the justice system.

“Instead, we have an SNP government which is far too soft on the issue of hard drugs and refuses to get tough on drug dealers.”

But Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf said he planned to take forward “evidence-led measures” to improve support for drug users.

Commenting on the figures, he said: “Substance use devastates too many families and communities across the country.

“We want to address that and change the provision of treatment and support for those who are most at risk.

“That means taking forward evidence-led measures with a focus on improving how we support those who need support and how we address the wider issues that affect them.

“In the last ten years we have invested over £784 million to tackle problem alcohol and drug use.

“Our new alcohol and drugs strategy will strengthen existing measures to support those vulnerable to drug and alcohol harm, while applying the full force of the law to hit the dealers who cause misery that blights the lives of so many.

“Drug enforcement, including seizures, remains a key part of Police Scotland activity, supported by the Scottish Government’s commitment to protecting the police resource budget in every year of this Parliament – a boost of £100 million by 2021.”

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