Hundreds of people have been let off drug offences with little more than a caution, new figures have shown.
An investigation by the Wigan Evening Post has unearthed figures on drug offences committed in the borough in the past five years showing that offenders have got away with cautions for crimes including production of cannabis and possessing class A drugs such as cocaine.
In fact, more people were handed caution for possessing cocaine since 2011 than were charged with the offence.
Offenders caught producing, or being involved in the production of, cannabis were also more likely to get off with a caution then be charged with the offence.
Police chiefs in Wigan have defended their stance, insisting our figures “do not show a consistent trend”.
“These figures do not show a consistent trend in offences relating to drug charges but rather show that this is something that we need to continue to tackle on a regular basis,” Det Insp Matthew Moore said.
“Some of our recent investigations have resulted in convictions for importing to and dealing drugs on the streets of Wigan, something that we will absolutely not tolerate. A lot of our work is around supporting individual users into appropriate treatment with operational activity directed at higher level drug suppliers, therefore tackling the larger issue at its source.
“We do need the people of Wigan to help us fight this blot on our community though. We would ask anyone with information to contact us on 999 in an emergency, or 101 when it isn’t, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
In 2011, 43 cautions were handed out for the offence compared to 34 charges. This had dropped considerable in 2015 however, to 14 cautions and 22 charges, despite nearly 2,500 cannabis plants being seized by police.
The figures, released under Freedom of Information Act, reveal cannabis is certainly the drug of choice for Wiganers with hundreds of people being caught in possession on the class B drug since 2011.
In 2011, 102 people were charged with possessing cannabis, compared to 36 in 2015. Cocaine was the second most likely drug for people to be caught with in the borough, peaking in 2012 when 66 people were caught, resulting in 42 cautions and 22 charges,
A high number of people were also caught with amphetamines were also caught, with 10 people receiving cautions in 2015 and 16 people charged. This is down from 45 charges in 2011 when a further 12 people were also cautioned.
Those caught in possession of heroin were more likely to be charge then cautioned, with only one person cautioned last year compared to eight charges being brought.
Although offences for possession have dropped since 2015, other indicators in the borough do not suggest as big a drop in the number of people using drugs, such as the numbers of people being admitted to hospital for drug misuse.
Figures released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre show 166 residents were admitted to Wigan hospitals due to poisoning by illicit drugs in 2015, compared to the previous year’s total of 191. But the number of people caught possessing a drug dropped by almost a third from 264 in 2014 to 183.
The number of people caught in possession with intent to supply has remained at similar levels since 2011.
The number of people charged with possessing cannabis with the intent to supply was 18 in both 2011 and 2015, which the same for cocaine rose from 14 to 22 in the same years.