HC Deb 25 May 2000 vol 350 cc1104-5
29. Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney)

If he will make a statement on the application of the public interest test by the Crown Prosecution Service in drugs cases. [122431]

The Solicitor-General (Mr. Ross Cranston)

The Crown Prosecution Service lawyers are guided by the code for Crown prosecutors in relation to offences involving controlled drugs, as with any other offence. Therefore, they must decide whether a prosecution should be brought in the public interest. First, a Crown prosecutor has to be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction. Once that test is satisfied, the public interest test must be considered.

Mr. Blizzard

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that answer. May I suggest to him that it is very much in the public interest to continue the fight against all kinds of drugs and not to ease off in any way? May I urge him not to be enticed by the arguments pushed and pedalled by those who make the case for legalisation or decriminalisation? Does he agree that, at a time when we are trying to ban smoking, it makes no sense to take a softer line towards people who mix tobacco with cannabis and then smoke that?

The Solicitor-General

As I said, the CPS acts in accordance with the code. There must be evidence before consideration of the public interest test can take place. Parliament has not decriminalised cannabis, so the CPS will prosecute those offences. In some circumstances, of course, the police will simply issue a caution and the cases will not come to the CPS. When cases do come to the CPS, public interest factors may sometimes militate against prosecution. For example, in areas in which prosecution for possession of cannabis may lead to adverse community relations, the CPS may decide that it is not in the public interest to prosecute. However, possession is a criminal offence and the CPS proceeds on that basis.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

Where there is sufficient evidence to prosecute a repeat drugs offender, in what conceivable circumstances could it be against the public interest to do so?

The Solicitor-General

Repetition of behaviour is one factor that would be taken into account and would certainly point towards prosecution.