Sir Keir Starmer disagrees with Camden youth MP’s call to decriminalise drugs during meeting on gang violence

Sir Keir Starmer presenting the Youth Safety Taskforce Report at the British Library, alongside Cllr

Sir Keir Starmer presenting the Youth Safety Taskforce Report at the British Library, alongside Cllr Abdul Hai and Central North borough commander Det Ch Supt Iain Raphael. Picture: Harry Taylor - Credit: Archant

Holborn and Pancras MP Sir Keir Starmer declined to back a call by Camden’s youth MP to decriminalise drugs during a meeting on drugs and gang violence in Camden.

Speaking alongside Cllr Abdul Hai at the Camden Safer Neighbourhood Board AGM on the Youth Safety Taskforce Report, he said it was important to “change the conversation around drugs and gangs”.

He said: “Young men are getting into situations they can’t get out of. They can make a lot of money from being involved in the drugs trade, and we need to look at a way for these young people to earn the money legitimately.”

The area’s youth MP Athian Akec backed decriminalisation of drugs in his manifesto when he was elected in March. In it, under the title End The War on Drugs, he said: “Under current drugs policies, people who need help with drug use are thrown into prison, instead of receiving medical help.”

Responding to a question last night from the Ham&High, Sir Keir said he disagreed with the area’s youth MP, and said he didn’t believe decriminalisation would stop the drugs trade in Camden Town, or drug-related youth violence.

“It’s one thing to say that possession of cannabis shouldn’t be treated as a criminal offence. I was in favour of recent pilots against prosecution over possession. But when you get into class A and class B drugs that I have seen do serious damage to people, calls for decriminalisation can be wrong.

“I’m not saying I am not open to discussion on how it should be a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue.”

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Cabinet member for young people and cohesion Cllr Hai said there needed to be a “proper debate” about class C drugs and decriminalisation.

The meeting at the British Library also looked at knife crime in the borough. Sir Keir said he had visited a youth club as part of the taskforce’s work and despite competing with a Fifa game for youngsters’ attention, many of those he and Cllr Hai had spoken to said they felt scared, which was why they carried knives.

The youth safety taskforce group was set up in November 2017 in the wake of increasing knife crime and youth violence in the borough. Abdikarim Hassan, 17, and Sadiq Aadam, 20, were killed on February 20.

The men charged with murder over their deaths are due to enter a plea tomorrow morning at the Old Bailey.

A report by borough commander Det Ch Supt Iain Raphael showed a 15 per cent reduction in knife crime between April and September 2018 compared with the same time last year.