Lewisham mayor vows to reform “racist” drug laws

By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter

The mayor of Lewisham promised to do all he can to reform “racist” drug laws which criminalise young black.

Speaking at the authority’s AGM on Wednesday, Mayor Damien Egan vowed to “confront racial inequality,” to support small and independent businesses, and to invest more in green spaces.

He said in the wake of the pandemic “we have a chance to build a more equal society”.

He said: “One issue that I want to continue to focus on is the issue of drug reform, and I will continue to work with others to press for an evidence-based system, one which treats drug use as a public health and not a criminal justice issue.”

Mayor Egan said he was “shocked to learn” that last year 49 Lewisham children were sent to the borough’s youth offending service (YOS) for first-time drug offences.

He said: “Of those 49 children, how many do you think were children of colour? It’s 43.

“Every single child in Lewisham who received a custodial sentence from the courts last year was a child of colour.

“In Lewisham you are three times more likely to be stopped and searched if you’re black than if you’re white.

“Three quarters of the time, regardless of who you are, the police will find nothing on you.

“Our drugs laws are racist, they criminalise young black men, while giving criminal gangs the power to exploit vulnerable young people, and I will do all I can to challenge and reform them.”

Pictured top: Lewisham civic centre


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