Warnings for cannabis possession reach five-year high across Suffolk
- Credit: PA
A rise in the number of warnings handed out for cannabis use has been attributed to significant investment in proactive policing.
Nationally, the use of warnings for people found in possession of an amount of cannabis consistent with personal has declined by almost 50% nationally since 2015.
But Suffolk police last year issued 23% more cannabis and khat warnings (for possession of the banned herbal stimulant) than during the previous 12 months.
Use of the warnings went from 280 to 344 – approaching the number issued in 2015 (362).
Police said investment in tackling more serious drug supply offences had presented wider enforcement opportunities.
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Warnings will not result in a conviction, but will be recorded and can be taken into consideration for a repeat offence.
Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Bridger said recent rises in the police precept component of council tax had allowed investment in proactive units like the county’s three Operation Sentinel teams – providing enhanced coverage of the road network to disrupt serious and organised criminal activity.
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He said the warnings allowed police to deal with users on the periphery of the market and build an intelligence picture while targeting those at the top.
“We carry out regular checks to ensure they are being used appropriately and according to rigid criteria,” he added.
“If the amount is deemed to be of a certain value or quantity, and they are not involved in supplying others, it’s appropriate to give them the opportunity to recognise it’s illegal and change their ways, without having to be put through the criminal justice system.
“One of the strengths of our criminal justice system is the ability for officers to use a full range of action for the right reasons.
“Fundamentally, those perceived low-level purchases are funding a market driven by organised crime groups and causing misery.
“What some regard as ‘social use’ has a much broader impact. It can expose those same individuals to networks that encourage them to move onto harder drugs or become involved in criminality when the lifestyle overtakes their ability to finance it.
“I believe the medium-term increase in warnings is the result of investment in the people and resources capable of dealing with issues in key areas.”