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Warning: This is archived material and may be out of date. The Metropolitan Police Authority has been replaced by the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC).

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Drugs Scrutiny

The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) has completed an in-depth scrutiny of the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) approach to policing drugs. The review findings were intended to directly influence MPS policies and procedures in dealing with people involved in drugs.

The review focused on ensuring the MPS had in place a coherent strategic approach to combating drugs. This  included the MPS response to emerging performance and intelligence trends. The review also focused on the significance of partnership arrangements in this important area.


Reducing drug crime has been a key issue for the MPA for a number of years, but it is an area up until now has had little scrutiny.

The MPS has in the past developed a drug prevention strategy, but it has not been clear to what extent this has been implemented. This issue was highlighted in a report presented to the MPA Planning Performance and Review Committee (PPRC) in December 2005, which indicated a lack of internal co-ordination in the MPS approach to addressing drug-related crime. The same report also suggested that the strategic approach taken by the MPS was not as well developed as it could be.

Scrutiny panel membership

The scrutiny Panel was made up of the following MPA members:

  • Richard Sumray (chair)
  • Rachel Whittaker
  • Richard Barnes
  • Joanne McCartney
  • Elizabeth Howlett
  • Damian Hockney
  • Aneeta Prem

Terms of reference

The objectives of the scrutiny were to:

  • Ensure the MPS has a consistent and coherent strategic approach to combating drugs by undertaking an assessment of the current MPS position with regard to developing and implementing a drugs strategy, including the extent to which it brings together the different levels of drug-related crime This included:
    • Clarifying the scale of the problem by looking at drug crime from level 1 including drug taking in communities and crack houses, level 2, including the middle market in relation to supply and distribution and level 3 including how MPS links to other organisations to tackle organised criminal networks.
    • Identifying the various approaches such as tackling the culprit rather than the commodity to assess the most effective approach in dealing with drug related criminal activity.
    • Identifying any gaps in the current approach to policing drugs needing to be addressed
    • Understanding the impact drugs have on Londoners and how the MPS can tackle this through policing
    • Understanding the role and function of the MPA, MPA link members and the MPS in delivering an effective MPS strategy for tackling drugs and drug related crime
  • Ensure that the response of the directorates within the MPS to emerging intelligence and performance trends is appropriate. We did this by:
    • Considering the types of performance targets and measures that would assist and drive the MPS to tackle drug related crime particularly in relation to use and supply.
    • Identifying examples of good practice and practical examples of how the approach taken by police can be improved, including understanding the impact that intervention has on people’s lives (users, victims, communities)
    • Identifying the intelligence requirements and capabilities within the MPS (and other agencies), and understanding how these are used in the fight against drugs
    • Reviewing the use of forensics in reducing drug crime and understanding key challenges facing the MPS.
  • Ensure that the MPS relationships with other agencies active in this area (e.g. SOCA) are robust and provide clarity in the roles and responsibilities. We did this by:
    • Identifying the partnership arrangements in place between the MPA, MPS and statutory partners to reduce demand and prevent drug related crime.
    • Establishing the role and function of CDRPs in tackling drug related crime in the local community
    • Clarifying the link between MPS and education services to undertake preventative work in relation to drugs
    • Identifying the role and impact of the criminal justice system and probation in tackling drug related crime including treatment and support programmes that are available such as, drug intervention programmes, drug treatment and testing orders.

Equality and diversity implications were assessed as an integral part of the review including key areas of disproportionality such as fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for cannabis possession will be investigated.

Key exclusions

It was acknowledged that any review of drugs is potentially extremely wide ranging. There is always a considerable body of work undertaken by statutory and voluntary organisations in relation to drugs and related addiction issues, which provided background and context for the review. We therefore excluded the following areas:

  • Evidence suggests a link between drug use amongst some women and prostitution. However this issue has already been covered by the recent London Assembly report ‘Street Prostitution in London 2005’;
  • Similarly, the links between drug and alcohol misuse were excluded due to the substantial work undertaken by the Greater London Alcohol and Drug Alliance (GLADA) in relation to alcohol. However the work by GLADA did provide opportunities for more effective partnership and preventative work;
  • The impact of drug addiction on families, including babies born with addictions to drugs, is an important issue but it did not come primarily within the remit of the MPS. Substantial work in this area has been undertaken by FRANK the Home Office website geared towards drug treatment;
  • Many prescribed drugs can have addictive qualities, however unless these drugs are involved in illegal sale or trafficking they did not come within the remit of MPS and therefore this scrutiny;
  • The issue of access to, and the use of, illegal drugs within prisons were also excluded as the primary responsibility for this was with HM Prison Service.

Although the review was intended to provide the MPA with an opportunity to support and lobby for changes to improve or amend legislation in relation to drugs, all the recommendations and any action plan will have an identified lead as well as an agreed timeframe for completion.

Key interfaces

The scrutiny was based on an understanding of work underway in tackling drugs including ongoing work in central government and agencies such Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), the Home Office, London Probation, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), HM Court Services and voluntary organisations such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.


The approach followed elements of best practice as developed in previous MPA scrutinies in relation to consultation and gathering statements from witnesses. It used a mix of research, written consultation, questionnaires and statement gathering from witnesses. We also engaged with people with direct experience e.g. users, families, communities affected by drug activity.

Drugs Scrutiny panel meetings

All scrutiny evidence sessions were open to the public and media unless the witnesses requested to give evidence in a closed session.

Scrutiny timetable

A draft of the MPA Drugs Scrutiny was submitted to Full Authority on 31 May 2007. It was presented for discussion alongside the MPS Drugs Strategy. Comments and responses from Members and respondees have now been collated into a final report.

For more information on the drugs scrutiny or if you would like to receive a copy of the report, please contact:

Fauzia Ashraf-Malik
Policy and Development Officer - Scrutiny and Reviews
Metropolitan Police Authority
10 Dean Farrar Street

Tel: 020 7202 0120
Fax: 020 7202 0100
Minicom: 020 7202 0173

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