LibDem MP and Crime Prevention Minister with responsibility for drugs policy in the government, Norman Baker, is supporting announcements that people charged with possession of drugs for personal use should not be sent to prison.
Under LibDem manifesto plans drug users whose only crime is possession for personal use will instead receive non-custodial sentences and appropriate medical treatment.
Locking up these people, including 500 for possession of cannabis, costs taxpayers up to £5million a year – money that should be spent on bringing drug dealers to justice.
Norman says “The first step is to recognise that drug use is primarily a health problem. Addicts need treatment, not prison sentences. If we are to be anti-drugs we need to be pro-reform and look at support mechanisms for addicts not locking them up behind closed doors and turning a blind eye.
“That’s why our manifesto will include a commitment that we will end the use of imprisonment for possession of drugs for personal use and move the drugs and alcohol lead from the Home Office to the Department of Health”
Local Lib Dem MP and Home Office Minister, Norman Baker, has announced Lib Dem manifesto policy proposals to overhaul ‘stop and search’, seeking to help transform community relations and the public’s trust in the police through tightening the laws on stop and search, and requiring some police officers to wear body cameras when they stop someone.
In November 2013, Equality and Human Rights Commission research found that black people were six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, but in some areas this was as high as 29 times more likely.
Liberal Democrat Home Office Minister, Norman Baker, is bringing forward the plans in the party’s ‘pre-manifesto’ which will be published in September.
We will introduce rules making the wearing of body cameras by officers mandatory for:
- Section 60 stop and search areas
- Officers armed with firearms
- Members of Territorial Support Groups
The policy also includes plans to:
- Tighten up the rules on stop and search
- Eradicate the target-driven incentives which can cause the powers to be overused by police
- Improve safeguards through tighter guidance
- Ensure that authorisation for area-based Stop and Search is subject to judicial approval
Norman says: “The Liberal Democrats want to transform community relations and restore the public’s trust in the police. Far too many innocent people are subjected to stop and search, which is often based on crude stereotyping of minorities. “Stop and search has led to tension, and it’s something that cannot be ignored. Liberal Democrats in Government have been taking the lead, and believe more must be done in the next parliament.”
Local Lib Dem MP Norman Baker, Minister for Crime Prevention, wants the Department of Health to consider broadening the range of medical conditions for which cannabis can be used.
In the UK, the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 enables the availability of controlled drugs for medicinal purposes through licensing under schedules 2-4 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. Cannabis is listed in schedule 1 to the Regulations. This means that it has no recognised medicinal use and subject to the strictest control restrictions.
Norman says: “I think it is time to reconsider medicinal properties of cannabis, given what I have learnt in my role as a Minister. I have seen more and more evidence that cannabis can provide genuine medical benefits to treat a number of conditions. There is a growing body of research that shows the medical properties of chemical components of cannabis. We should seriously consider whether it is valuable to treat conditions such as MS, glaucoma, chronic and neurogenic pain and the side effects from chemotherapy and HIV/AIDS treatments.
“I am uncomfortable that there are credible people I have met who tell me that cannabis is the only substance that helps relieve their condition but not only are they stopped from accessing it officially but have to break the law to help their health.
“Other countries recognise that cannabis does have medicinal benefit and we need to look again at this to help people who are ill. This is a quite separate matter from the recreational use of cannabis which is not at issue here.
“We already prescribe cannabinoid treatments for some of the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. I have today written to Jeremy Hunt asking him to review the benefits of cannabis, so that we can lower the restrictions on the development of cannabis-based medicines. This could help many people suffering from a range of conditions.
“Obviously we have to do this right, we need to ensure that the proper medical processes are applied. But I have always said that we should follow the evidence, even if that takes us to uncomfortable areas of policy-making.”
I am seriously concerned at the recent tragic escalation of violence in the Gaza region, and I believe that an immediate ceasefire agreed by both sides is crucial. It is deeply disturbing that so many Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in this latest violence, the majority of whom are civilians and many of whom are children. The attacks on UN premises are completely unacceptable.
There can be no justification either for the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza against Israeli civilians or for the ruthless Israeli attackson the Palestinian population in Gaza. This is causing a dangerous security situation which cannot continue, and I condemn all atrocities or human rights abuses carried out by either side in this conflict.
I recognise that the people of Israel have the absolute right to live without constant fear for their security. However, the people of Gaza have the fundamental right to live in peace and security too, and the Palestinian civilian population cannot be held responsible for the actions of Hamas. Around 400,000 people in Gaza currently live without access to electricity, and stocks of fuel and medical supplies are running dangerously low. International humanitarian law must be upheld and Israel should lift its blockade of Gaza to ease this human suffering.
The only hope of breaking this cycle of violence is a return to peace negotiations. My Lib Dem colleagues and I are committed to a negotiated peace settlement, which includes a genuine two-state solution, with Israel returned to its pre-1967 borders, save for mutually agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as the capital of both states, and a just settlement for refugees. I fear the recent violence can only set back the time when a lasting peace solution can be enacted.
I have contacted the Department for International Development with my concerns, and that of many of my constituents, and have informed me they will be making available emergency support including health care, clean water, blankets and cooking equipment. The support builds on existing crucial programmes at this time of crisis including essential services to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East and support for UN Relief and Works Agency to help provide health services to the 70% of the Gazan population who are Palestinian refugees and to shelter those fleeing the fighting.
Work is happening with the UN Access Coordination Unit to support liaising with authorities on all sides to get medical and emergency cases out of Gaza and help to get essential supplies in.