Government announces new drug powers as Baker replaces Browne

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The government is creating new powers to seize chemicals suspected of being used as cutting agents for illegal drugs, as part of its Serious and organised crime strategy. The move will ‘drive up the cost and risk for organised criminals’, it says.

Other measures set out in the strategy include doubling the size of HMRC’s criminal taxes unit – which uses tax interventions to ‘attack the finances’ of people involved in drug trafficking and other offences – and moves to increase pubic recognition of offences, with the document citing a recent Home Office-funded ‘crimestoppers’ awareness-raising campaign on cannabis cultivation that led to a 25 per cent increase in public reporting. There will also be more use of intervention programmes around gangs and troubled families.

The document states that, although drug use is falling in the UK, the country’s illegal drugs market is still worth around £3.7bn a year and is ‘controlled by organised crime’. The strategy ‘focuses on preventing people from getting involved in organised crime, improving Britain’s protection against serious and organised criminality and ensuring communities, victims and witnesses are supported when serious and organised crimes occur’, the government says.

Meanwhile, Norman Baker has replaced Jeremy Browne as crime prevention minister in a government reshuffle. His responsibilities will include the drugs strategy, alcohol – including the Licensing Act and police and local authority powers – public health, domestic violence and homelessness. The appointment is a controversial one, in part because Baker is the author of a book arguing that the verdict of suicide in the death of former weapons inspector Dr David Kelly was ‘not credible’. Elsewhere, Jane Ellison has taken over as public health minister from Anna Soubry.

Serious and organised crime strategy at www.gov.uk