UK & World News
Lib Dems 'To Stop Drug Users Going To Jail'
The Liberal Democrats are announcing that if they win the next General Election they will stop people found in possession of drugs for personal use being sent to jail.
The manifesto pledge will state that if no other offence has been committed an alternative sentence should be given instead of a prison term.
The effective decriminalisation they say would be more effective as it should be regarded as a health issue therefore the drugs and alcohol policy would be removed from the Home Office brief and given to the Department of Health.
The party states that each year more than 1,000 people in England in Wales are jailed for possession of drugs for their own personal use.
It says the £5m would be better spent tackling addiction in the community as many of those imprisoned have a medical problem.
Civil penalties such as warnings or fines could be among those imposed instead or criminal cautions, probation or community service.
Currently the maximum penalty for possession of a Class A drug in the UK is seven years in prison. For a Class B drug it's up to five years and Class C up to two years.
For all classes of drugs there can also be an unlimited fine given either as an alternative or in addition to the jail term.
In 2012, the UK Drug Policy Commission published a report called "A Fresh Approach to Drugs".
It was based on a six-year study which recommended that possession of certain drugs for personal use should become a civil rather than a criminal offence.
The independent advisory body, which included scientists and senior police officers, wrote: "The evidence from other countries that have done this is that it would not necessarily lead to any significant increase in use, while providing opportunities to address some of the harms associated with existing drug laws."
The Home Secretary Theresa May rejected it, telling MPs: "People can die as a result of taking drugs, and significant mental health problems can arise."
The report stated that the UK has 2,000 drug-related deaths each year and more than 380,000 problem drug users.
Support services warn that criminalising people means those in need may be reluctant to ask for help.