North Somerset area sees 5-year low in cannabis convictions
PUBLISHED: 12:18 23 July 2018
The number of people convicted for possessing cannabis in the region has plummeted by almost 70 per cent, latest figures show.
Figures from 2017 released by the Ministry of Justice reveal a fall in convictions for possessing the drug has reduced significantly since 2012.
Then, 685 people were guilty of cannabis possession while being sentenced at courts across the South West.
But by 2017 this number rapidly decreased to 219 people being charged with the same offence.
Executive director Niamh Eastwood for Release, a specialist drug advice charity, said: “This trend is welcomed as low-level possession offences should not be a priority for police services.
“The fall in the number of prosecutions for drug possession offences, and in particular cannabis possession, has largely been a result of a significant decrease in the use of stop and search efforts.
“Some police forces including Avon and Somerset’s are taking a more pragmatic approach and diverting people away from the criminal justice system for possession offences.”
The Drugs Education Programme was introduced by Avon and Somerset Constabulary in 2016 and offers people an alternative route when being charged with a drug possession offense.
A once only opportunity method is used as an intervention aimed to deter people from further drug use and involvement in the criminal justice system.
Of those charged by the police in 2017, three were given prison sentences and 146 were given a fine or discharge.
Head of campaigns for the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Martin Powell, said: “This is the right approach by the police because drug offences can wreck peoples lives.
“The charity campaigns for the legal regulation of drug use in the UK and internationally.
“It may make it difficult for people to get a job and build a life after an offence has been committed, so this system makes it more likely to reduce the drug use rate if people are given a warning.
“Diversion schemes benefit society as a whole and Weston-super-Mare is on the right side of history in regards to this initiative.”
Avon and Somerset Police say cannabis possession charges account for 28 per cent of drug possession offences made in the South West.