Warnings for personal use of cannabis in Suffolk double in two years
- Credit: PA
Suffolk police are handing out an increasing number of warnings to people in possession of cannabis for personal use - bucking the national trend.
Use of the out-of-court disposals increased two-thirds in Suffolk last year, compared to a 20% slump across England and Wales.
Officers handed out 570 cannabis or khat warnings in 2020, compared to 344 the previous year and 280 in 2018.
The warnings, given to people in possession of an amount of cannabis consistent with personal use, but also used to deal with possession of class C stimulant khat, have consistently declined in use across the country since 2015.
Although not a conviction, warnings are recorded on the national police database and can be taken into consideration in the event of a repeat offence.
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Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Bridger said the figures demonstrated the force's ability to proactively detect offences – more so over lockdown periods and changes in demand during the last year.
He said the constabulary's commitment to tackling drugs was demonstrated by the investment in the three proactive Sentinel teams tackling serious and organised criminal activity – much linked to drug trafficking offences – across the county.
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Additionally, the Serious Crime Disruption Teams, Operation Scorpion teams and locally based officers, meant police were on the front foot, taking positive action and conducting regular intelligence led operations linked to drug trafficking, said Det Ch Supt Bridger.
“It’s important to make clear these warnings are overwhelmingly for cannabis so the reference to Khat warnings is a misnomer," he added.
"The warnings are part of a full range of tools that officers can implement in dealing with offending.
"In the cases of the warning they allow officers to deal with users on the periphery of the market and build an intelligence picture without the individuals having to be put through the criminal justice system.
Det Ch Supt Bridger said it was important to state the value of stop-and-search powers – the use of which doubled in the year ending last October – adding: "It is a useful tool but we always ensure it is used in a proportionate manner and applied responsibly and fairly, and our figures are held up to scrutiny on a regular basis and we continue to work with the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE), the Stop and Search Improvement Partnership, and the Stop and Search Reference Group.”