London mayor Sadiq Khan pilots scheme to ‘decriminalise’ minor drug offences

London mayor Sadiq Khan pilots scheme to ‘decriminalise’ minor drug offences

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is developing a pilot scheme to end the prosecution of young people caught with cannabis.

The scheme, which will be trialled in three London boroughs, has been modelled on the work of Thames Valley police, offering classes or counselling to under-25s caught with small amounts of cannabis.

Identifying new approaches to tackling illegal drugs has been a priority for Khan, who is also looking into the feasibility of decriminalising cannabis, having commissioned a review by independent experts.

Although the plans are still in development, government officials have expressed concerns, with both Downing Street and Labour leader Keir Starmer saying they do not endorse the proposals.

A road to crime reduction

The scheme follows evidence from Europe that decriminalisation can help tackle drug use and addiction, as well as contributing to a reduction in crime rates.

Portugal has seen dramatic drops in HIV infection, drug-related crime, and overdoses since decriminalising all drugs in 2001. 

A spokesperson for the mayor of London, said: “The limited trial, which is still in development and has yet to be approved by City Hall, would involve three of London’s 32 boroughs and would only apply to 18 to 24-year-olds found in possession of a small amount of cannabis. It would not apply to any other drug.

“The idea of the scheme, which is already used by other police forces across the country, would be to divert young people who are found with a small amount of cannabis away from the criminal justice system and instead provide help and support. This has been shown to reduce reoffending.

“Reducing crime is the mayor’s top priority and he will continue to explore and implement the most effective solutions to help to divert young people away from drug use and crime for good.”

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