Press release: Call for rethink as report shows failure of enforcement.

Press Release

14 May 2019

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Police call for drugs rethink as NCA report shows failure of drug enforcement


Today’s strategic assessment of serious and organised crime from the National Crime Agency paints a familiar picture. The NCA report demonstrates significant increases in drug production and supply and consequently, increased profits for organised criminals.


Only yesterday, the NCA’s head of operations for drugs, Vince O’Brien admitted: “We can’t arrest our way out of [ongoing drug demand and supply] anymore than we can arrest our way out of serious violence. We need to tackle the drivers behind it.”


This follows recognition from the Police Federation’s drugs lead that ‘prohibition has never worked’ and moves towards the decriminalisation of people caught in possession of drugs among an increasing number of police forces.


As Ron Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham, has said: the UK needs ‘a serious discussion about whether or not we legalise the illicit drugs we have at the moment’.


Even the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has acknowledged: ‘Global drug control efforts have had a dramatic unintended consequence: a criminal black market of staggering proportions. Organized crime is a threat to security. Criminal organizations have the power to destabilize society and Governments. The illicit drug business is worth billions of dollars a year, part of which is used to corrupt government officials and to poison economies.’


James Nicholls, CEO of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said:


“The time is right for the NCA and police to back reform, as their own research shows enforcement is not working.


“Drug use is risky, but most of the harms described in this report are the result of prohibition: ‘county lines’ exploitation, organised criminal involvement, violence and the use of scarce resources blocking a fraction of illegal shipments.


“The call for reform is getting louder and impossible to ignore, especially among the police – who are at the frontline of enforcing current drug laws.”





James Nicholls Chief Executive Officer at Transform Drug Policy Foundation, 07985 548 405


Danny Kushlick, Head of External Affairs at Transform Drug Policy Foundation, 07970 174 747


Notes to editors


  1. Transform Drug Policy Foundation is a UK and Mexico based think tank campaigning for the legal regulation of drugs:
  2. UNODC:
  3. Ron Hogg:
  4. Simon Kempton, Police Federation Drugs Lead:
  5. Vince O’Brien, NCA Drugs Lead:
    “Have we in disrupting that criminal group made a large step in choking off drug supply to the UK? I don’t think that is a realistic objective for us to have. Because you can only tackle supply if you tackle the demand market as well.

    “While there is user base willing to spend millions and millions of pounds worth on drugs, which represent millions and millions of pounds worth of profit, then we will have an issue with illicit drugs in this country.

    “We can’t arrest our way out of that anymore than we can arrest our way out of serious violence. We need to tackle the drivers behind it.”

    “While we have high levels of production and we have high levels of demand we will continue to have the resilient market we have at the moment.”
2019-11-21T16:25:42+00:00May 14th, 2019|



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