Scotland Class A drug users could receive warning rather than face prosecution in drastic shake-up

Those caught in possession of Class A drugs (for personal use) could now receive a recorded police warning instead of facing automatic prosecution in Scotland, ITV News Scotland correspondent Peter Smith reports

Anyone in Scotland caught with Class A drugs for personal use could now receive a recorded police warning rather than face prosecution.

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC announced the Recorded Police Warning scheme as a “proportionate criminal justice response to a level of offending.”

It comes after Scotland saw a record number of drug deaths for the seventh year in a row in 2020.

“The scheme provides officers with a speedy, effective and proportionate means of dealing with low-level offending,” Bain said.

“Officers may choose to deal with low-level offences by issuing a Recorded Police Warning.”

While the new measures do not amount to decriminalisation, they are as close as we’ve seen to it in the UK, said ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith.

Prosecutions in Scotland will also consider if there’s an underlying driver behind criminal activity, including drug addiction.

Offenders could be offered “diversion treatment” in a bid to prevent repeat offences in what represents a major change in the way drugs laws are executed in Scotland.

More people died from drugs in Scotland in 2020 than in any year since records began.

'Not going to lie to you, sometimes I hope I don’t wake up': In July, Cheryl Riddick spoke to ITV News as part of a report into the impact of the drug crisis in Scotland

There were 1,339 drug-related deaths registered in the country last year, an increase of 5% from 2019.

This is the largest number of drug-related deaths since records began in 1996 and it continues a worrying upward trend, marking an increase for the seventh year in a row.

There were 1,187 drug-related deaths registered in 2018 - above 1,000 for the first time and up 253 (27%) on the previous year - and another 1,264 died in 2019.

It all means the country continues to have the worst drug death rate in Europe, with 21.2 deaths per 1,000 of the population, more than three-and-a-half times higher than the rest of the UK.

More on Scotland's drug crisis