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U.S. Department of State
1997 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1998

United States Department of State

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

Europe and Central Asia


I. Summary

The United Kingdom (UK) is a consumer country of illicit drugs. It produces and exports many precursor and essential chemicals that could be used to manufacture illicit drugs. It strictly enforces national precursor chemical legislation in compliance with EU regulations. British financial institutions have been vulnerable to money laundering, but implementation of tougher money laundering legislation appears to have reduced vulnerability throughout the Crown Territories. Nevertheless, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man have offshore banking facilities that are attractive to drug funds. In October 1997, the UK appointed an anti-drug coordinator to aid the government in coordinating its fight against illicit drugs and focus on innovative thinking in this area.

II. Status of Country

British drug policy addresses demand reduction, treatment and law enforcement, and focuses on locally based action plans. Marijuana is the most popular illicit drug in the UK. With an estimated 100,000 heroin addicts, a major concern of British officials is stemming the abuse of heroin and other injected drugs. There has been an increase in crack cocaine and cocaine use, but they remain under control. British authorities are concerned about the use of amphetamines and Ecstasy (MDMA), particularly among young people. Methadone is also frequently misused.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Policy Initiatives. The new British government, which came to power after the Labour Party victory in the May 1 elections, is building on an initiative introduced in 1996 called "Tackling Drugs Together," a three-year program aimed at increasing community safety from drug-related crime, helping young people resist drugs, and reducing the health risks of drug abuse. Local drug action teams comprising police, probation, health, education, prison and local authorities have taken forward action plans in 1997 to deal with drug misuse in their jurisdiction.

The government has stepped up its action to tackle drugs by appointing the first UK anti-drugs coordinator, Keith Hellawell, who will be supported by a Deputy, Mike Trace. One of their immediate priorities will be to review the government's existing action against drugs and to advise on a new strategy to succeed "Tackling Drugs Together."

In line with the government's pre-election promises, a new drug testing and treatment procedure will be introduced as part of the Crime and Disorder Bill, aimed at breaking the links between addiction and committing criminal offenses. The new regulation will enable the courts to require drug abuse offenders to undergo treatment, and mandatory drug testing will be used to ensure those in treatment are staying clean.

The UK vigorously contributes to international drug control efforts. A new Special Representative for International Drugs Issues, Patrick Nixon, was appointed in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office maintaining this function at the Assistant Secretary-equivalent level. British bilateral aid and assistance focused in 1997 on Latin America (Colombia), Central/Eastern Europe, and Southwest Asia. The UK cooperates closely with the UNDCP and is working with both the EU and UNDCP, as well as the US, in implementing the Caribbean Drugs Action Plan. The UK spends a total of about $10.6 million per year on counternarcotics activities outside Great Britain, including the cost of Royal Navy ships on counternarcotics duty in the Caribbean. It channeled about $1.72 million of its FY 97-98 counternarcotics funding through the UNDCP. The British play a leading role in a number of international drug control fora including the Council of Europe's Pompidou Group, the Dublin Group, Europol's Drug Unit and other EU fora, and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The UK chairs the Southwest Asia region in the Dublin Group and is a vocal counternarcotics advocate in the many mini-Dublin groups throughout the world.

Accomplishments. This year a law was implemented that requires mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drug traffickers. A law was also passed to allow night clubs and similar venues to be closed immediately when there is found to be a serious drug problem. In the past, these establishments were allowed to stay open while they appealed the charge of having a drug problem.

Agreements and Treaties. The US/UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty went into effect in December 1996. The UK has been a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention since 1991 and complies fully with its provisions. The UK was the first country to ratify the Council of Europe's directive on money laundering as well as the first EU member state to ratify the agreement setting up Europol. A US-UK Extradition Treaty is also in effect, most recently updated in 1985. The United Kingdom is a party to the WCO's International Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance for the Prevention, Investigation, and Repression of Customs Offences "Nairobi Convention" Annex X on Assistance in Narcotics Cases. The USG has concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of the United Kingdom.

Corruption. Narcotics-related corruption of public officials is not considered a problem in the UK. When identified, corrupt officials are vigorously prosecuted.

Demand Reduction. HMG's demand reduction efforts focus on educating young people. Teams located in high-risk urban areas work closely with the community in advertising the harmful effects of drugs, disseminating information, offering training seminars for youth workers, and offering diversionary activities for youngsters.

Cultivation/Production. Some quantities of marijuana, using the hydroponic system, are cultivated in the UK for personal use and then sold for commercial use. When detected, the authorities destroy them. Quantities of amphetamines and Ecstasy are also manufactured in clandestine laboratories which authorities destroy when found.

Drug Flow/Transit. Heroin reaching the UK generally originates in Afghanistan and Pakistan and is routed through Iran, Turkey (where much of it is processed), and Central and Eastern Europe. Drug traffickers are increasingly using some of the Newly Independent States (NIS) as alternate smuggling routes to the UK. Marijuana comes primarily from Morocco. Large cocaine shipments arrive directly from South America; smaller shipments often come up from the Spanish coast, either directly to the UK or via Amsterdam. Supplies of amphetamines, Ecstasy, and LSD can be traced to clandestine laboratories in certain European countries, particularly The Netherlands and Poland, as well as the UK.

Law Enforcement Efforts. British law enforcement officials, including customs and excise officials, are vigilant and effective. In 1996, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the UK seized 79,900 kgs of controlled substances (of which 95 percent was cannabis.) In 1996, the UK convicted, cautioned or fined 93,600 drug offenders.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. Since 1989, the US and UK governments have conducted periodic consultations at the senior level to coordinate and harmonize policies, plans and programs on all counternarcotics fronts. The UK's Special Representative on International Drug Issues was particularly active in 1997, further enhancing US/UK counternarcotics cooperation. Law enforcement cooperation between the two countries is excellent and growing. The UK cooperates to the fullest extent with efforts by the US and other countries to trace or seize illicit assets. British laws permit the sharing of forfeited assets with the USG. Asset sharing with others is both formal and ad hoc.

The Road Ahead. The US looks forward to continued close cooperation with the UK on all counternarcotics fronts.


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