The Start of the Drugs Problem in Hampshire

The Start of the Drugs Problem in Hampshire

A Personal Story by Allan Grimwood

Once again, the subject of drug abuse and misuse is much in the news; a ‘Drug Czar’ has been appointed by the Government, a variety of the great and the good, including a few chief police officers, have made pronouncements as to the remedy, some with the idea that if the possession and use of all drugs was legalised there would be an end to the problem.

Some hope! There would certainly be an increase in the number of addicts, a problem that might well be pushed away from the police to the medical and social services but it is well documented that persons under the influence of drugs indulge in anti-social behaviour and you can guess what ‘agency’ is left to sweep up that mess!

Of course, we haven’t always had a ‘drug’ problem, even though such substances (defined as substances used in medicine or that act on the nervous system) have been around for a very long time (in fact since Adam, or at any rate shortly after!) Certainly there has always been some misuse over the years but this did not manifest itself into a ‘problem’ throughout the country until comparatively recently, within the memory of some police officers still serving.

Naturally, there are exceptions; after the First World War the use of opiates and cocaine began to show signs of getting out of hand for the first time in London and other large conurbations, so much so that legislation was introduced to outlaw its use, hence the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1920. This Act of Parliament was amended slightly at various times over the following 30 years, mainly in connection with the production and use of opium and its derivatives, although possession of ‘Indian Hemp’, (later referred to as ‘cannabis’ and ‘tinctures thereof) was made unlawful.

Even up to the beginning of the sixties it seems there was considered no requirement for the control of any other drugs, albeit that medical science was producing more and more substances which acted on the central nervous system of the human body.

However, there does not seem to have been any great problem generally but it is of interest to note that the song, ‘I Get A Kick Out Of You’, originally recorded in the 1930’s but released again in the mid 1970’s and again since, contained the words, ‘I get no kick from cocaine’ when first released (but since changed), which indicates the extent to which use of such substances was accepted at that time.

So we come to a social habit that has come into being in the last 30 years or so. Certainly in Hampshire it was unheard of virtually from the establishment of the Hampshire Constabulary in the 1840s until the early 1960s, some 120 years later. And how it has grown since! How has the police force reacted to it? More importantly perhaps, how has the ‘Establishment’ or the ‘Authorities’ reacted? Not very well in my opinion, certainly in the early days.

It started with the sudden popularity of ‘Pep Pills’ – amphetamines, in the so-called ‘Swinging Sixties’, when the ‘Baby Boomers’, those born after Dad returned from the war and everything was going to be roses from then on, reached their teens and the great challenge to authority began.

A form of pep pill containing a drug called Benzedrine had been used quite legally during the war to combat tiredness. After the war, the development of synthetic drugs really took off, and the benzidrine of the war years progressed to being used in drugs for many other purposes, such as assisting people to lose weight, and boosting self confidence.

The substance amphetamine began to be used more prominently in these synthetic preparations, and many varieties could be obtained over the counter at chemists shops. Over prescribing by doctors became a serious problem.

If a look back is taken to the situation at that time, it is difficult to escape the concept that misuse of one drug leads to misuse of others, but more of the later.

Remember, at that time as far as the police were concerned the only legislation to work on was the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1920, as amended several times up to and including 1964, but this did not cover the ever increasingly popular synthetic drugs, loosely described as amphetamines, followed by LSD.

The Government of the day eventually caught on, and again in 1964 introduced additional legislation to control these other substances. It was known as The Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act, but the Dangerous Drugs Act was left in place which led to a misconception that still exists today, i.e. those substances originally controlled by the Dangerous Drugs Act are more dangerous than others that then became controlled by the Prevention of Misuse Act, which for some reason became referred to as ‘soft’ drugs.

So the situation in the mid 1960s was that opium and its derivatives, i.e. heroin, along with cocaine and other less well known substances (none of which were at that time causing a problem in Hampshire), were controlled by the early Act of Parliament and the ‘pep pills (that were causing problems all over the country) were controlled by the later Act, and quickly became known as soft drugs.

The misuse of this latter group of drugs manifested itself in Hampshire, with teenagers explaining their erratic, unsocial or criminal behaviour on their consumption of the so called ‘pep’ pills. In criminal proceedings this explanation began to take precedence over the well worn excuse of excessive consumption of alcohol. What were the police doing about this now criminal activity of unlawful possession of controlled substances? Not very much,

I can tell you! How much training and instruction was available to police officers in Hampshire on the detection of offences under this new act? Precisely none! Those above the rank of sergeant, virtually without exception, had absolutely no idea of the effects these drugs had on a person, and in many cases were dismissive of the speed of the spread of the habit, the money that was changing hands to acquire drugs, and of the long term criminal activities that were sure to result.

Unfortunately, the lack of interest by senior officers transmitted down the ranks; in any case, uniformed officers who saw the effects of drug taking at the so called ‘sharp end’ were naturally unable to follow any enquiries through and were certainly given no encouragement to do what really should have been a Criminal Investigation Department task from the very start.

It’s worth remembering that at that time terrorism was something that only took place in foreign countries; robbery of any kind, let alone armed, was a very rare occasion, and murder cases, except of a domestic nature and therefore usually quickly detected, occurred not much more than once a year; it could never be said that the C.I.D. had more important work.

By 1966 information was coming in every week about the misuse of drugs; in Winchester, where I was then a detective constable, the law breakers were as they usually are everywhere else, then and now, generally of the age of 25 years or less, and therefore in the age bracket that were attracted to drugs. Additionally, there were those who were using the growing drug culture to make money. They could see that for a reasonably small outlay they could make a fair income.

All they had to do was travel to one of the large cities, usually London, seek out a supplier and return with whatever quantity of drugs they could lay out for. There was an ever expanding market and a virtually non-existent risk. What is interesting is that drugs other than ‘pep pills’ were practically unheard of L.S.D. had only just been ‘invented’ then.

The pep pills started as being small heart shaped tablets coloured purple which led to the obvious name of ‘purple hearts’, but these were quickly replaced by purple tablets of the usual round shape and size, probably for ease of manufacture.

At that time in Winchester I was running several good informants who were regularly telling of trips being made to London by small groups of two or three local youths, usually on a Friday or Saturday, in order to bring back pep pills for sale to those attending the all night parties at the week end, which had become very much the ‘in thing’. My DI at that time was the late Tom Dicken, (later D/Superintendent) and I managed to persuade him in the early weeks of 1967 that it was time the police were seen to be taking some positive action.

He was agreed that the next time I had good information that such a trip to London was planned I was to go to London in advance of the time the drug purchasers were believed to be departing, keep watch on Waterloo Railway station and follow the Winchester people to wherever they went to buy the drugs, then either notify the Metropolitan Police and have the miscreants arrested there, or follow them back to Hampshire and arrest them myself (The latter was the preferred option – more kudos for Hampshire police!)

After further discussion, he agreed to arrange for Peter Long (later D/Superintendent), who at that time had recently been appointed a detective constable and transferred from Winchester to Aldershot, and who had worked as aide to CID at Winchester and therefore knew our local criminals, could accompany me, as well as a Winchester WPC, Janet Hobbs, so that she, probably unrecognised, could do the close following in London.

Mark this well surveillance was something at that time that might have been read about in detective fiction, but it certainly was unheard of in the Hampshire Constabulary; personal radios were just being thought of, and those on issue to us were experimental sets about the size of today’s video cassettes and could only operate through a control station, and therefore were of no use in a following operation; and what about the futility of trying to follow a group of people through London using only three officers, at least two of whom would be known to the targets?

However, my own enthusiasm for the chase overcame such obstacles and in February of that year I received positive information that a group of 18 – 20 years old youths from Winchester were going up to London by train to obtain drugs on a particular Friday. I had some definite names and some more that might go, and as they all had previous convictions I had photographs of them with me.

That Friday afternoon Peter Long came down from Aldershot and with Janet Hobbs we travelled up to Waterloo by train from Winchester. (It came back to me later that I had been seen boarding the train by a local ne’er-do-well, who had relayed this fact in the pub, where it had been dismissed as me going away for the weekend!)

At Waterloo railway station we made ourselves known to the Transport Police and took up observation on the platform where trains from Winchester arrived.

About 10.30 p.m. one of the trains from Winchester disgorged its passengers onto the platform at Waterloo, and amongst them we saw six of our likely lads. Janet immediately merged with the rush of people on the main concourse and commenced to follow our targets, with Peter Long and I keeping a safe distance behind her. I suppose it is about 100 yards from the platform the train had stopped at to the underground station. That was the extent of our ‘following’ operation!

We lost them as soon as they went into the entrance to the underground, which was sickeningly disappointing, but demonstrated our naivety and complete lack of any training or resources. Try it yourself before you laugh too loud! So what to do next? I had absolutely no idea where they would go to, and referring to the Metropolitan Police would, to them, be the joke of the year.

I conferred with Tom Dicken and my D/S, Doug Bevis (later DCI), who were standing by at Winchester with the other D/Cs and some uniform officers. We came to the conclusion that we should wait at Waterloo for an hour, in the hope that our targets would return quickly. Failing that, we should call the whole thing off.

So that was what we did, and after a couple of cups of tea, courtesy of the Transport Police, set off back to Winchester thoroughly demoralised, there being no sign of our targets returning.

By the time of our arrival back in Winchester the staff of the C.I.D. had gone home, so Peter Long availed himself of a lift up to Aldershot and Janet Hobbs went off duty. I consoled myself with a cup of tea with the uniform night shift and considered the options open now. At least I knew that my information had been correct in that a group of reputed drug dealers/users had travelled to London and I was in no doubt they intended to buy drugs to bring back to their home town.

It occurred to me that they would not want to hang around in London too long if they were in possession of drugs, partly because of the fear of police attention and partly because they would prefer to be on their home ground.

They had no transport of their own and therefore were reliant on using the train to get home. The train we had travelled back on was the last to Winchester for two hours, so the next one was the mail train, arriving about 4.30 a.m., which left another hour or so. I came to the conclusion that even though I had been on duty all day Friday, and now most of the night,

it was worthwhile waiting for the mail train, to see if they did return on that. (Just in case you think you could hear the cash register ringing, please remember that there was NO paid overtime for any police officer at that time!) Of course, there was no-one available to accompany me, after all the operation had been stood down, so I equipped myself with one of the experimental personal radios and at the appropriate time made my way up to the railway station to keep watch.

The only police car on duty in Winchester that night was crewed by Dave Neale and Norman Northfield, which was particularly fortunate as they were both very crime minded and co-operative and they promised to stand by to assist me if required.

Punctual to the minute, the mail train arrived and to my delight the six that we had seen at Waterloo alighted from it and made their way from the railway station towards the town, with me following. This surveillance was a different ball game to that I had experienced in London; to start with I knew the streets of Winchester as well as, if not better than, my targets.

Additionally, although there was no-one else on the streets to give me cover, they were so full of exuberance (and no doubt some pep pills), that they were making plenty of noise and I could stay back half a street and still tell where they were going.

After City Road they turned into Jewry Street, where they stopped in the wooden bus shelter next to the library. From what I was able to hear, they were about to split up to go to their separate homes. On the opposite side of the road to the bus shelter is the Roman Catholic church, and at that time had along its border with the pavement a thick laurel hedge.

I went round the back of the church, through the grounds and up to this hedge fronting Jewry Street, through which I pushed myself until I was nearly on the pavement. I had an excellent view of the bus shelter opposite, and because of the lack of traffic and pedestrians could see and hear all that was taking place.

There was considerable discussion about dividing the drugs between them, but they then decided to hide them underneath the inner lining of a waste bin that was in the bus shelter.

Now was the time for some positive action by the police! Miraculously the personal radio functioned properly, and seconds later the patrol car swept up the road and joined me and together we arrested the six, then like a magician pulling a rabbit out of the hat, I delved in the underneath of the waste bin and pulled out a bag in which were several dozen small envelopes containing tablets.

If I had felt sick when we lost them at Waterloo railway station, it was nothing to how they must have felt to have come all the way back to Winchester, only to be caught by that bxxxxxx Grimwood!

The investigation that followed these arrests produced evidence to apprehend a further 7 men from Winchester who had put up money for drugs to be purchased, (then the offence of ‘inciting others to commit a crime), and the newspapers had quite a field day.

However, when the cases eventually were dealt with at the City Quarter Sessions, the sentences passed were mainly by way of fines, with only about three being sent to detention centres for a maximum of three months.

I am sure that if more deterrent sentences had been passed it would have sent a strong message to drug users and pushers, but as it was it seemed to me to have been treated all too leniently, as if the offences were merely technical.

The success of these arrests did however bring me much more information about drugs and several more successful prosecutions were brought in the following months and years. Yet still the seriousness of drug taking was not universally recognised. Indeed,

I remember in one prosecution the defending solicitor told the court that the drug was ‘only’ amphetamine and not a ‘hard’ drug! With comments like that from supposedly well informed people it is not surprising that most police officers were not interested in detecting drug offences. In fact, the attitude of many in the police force was ‘if they want to ruin their own bodies, then let them’.

However, about this time the police forces of Hampshire County, Southampton City and Portsmouth City were amalgamated and we had, as head of the force C.I.D. Chief Superintendent Holdaway, had a very strong interest in anything even remotely connected to crime and he set up drug ‘squads’ in Southampton and Portsmouth, although consisting only of a detective sergeant and four or five men, and this had some, although not much, effect on raising the interest of drug offences in the force in general.

Still it could not be seen that drug taking would lead to more crime. Still many police officers, particularly C.I.D. officers, considered it beneath their dignity to deal with drug offences. Resources were not made available and training was very limited.

On my promotion to detective sergeant I was posted as in charge of the S.W. Hampshire drug squad. This covered the whole of Southampton city, Eastleigh, Totton, Hythe, all the New Forest and even Christchurch, which was until 1974 part of Hampshire. A vast area with a vast population and my staff consisted of 4 detective constables to cover it and no car issued! (Borrow one from the local C.I.D. if you need one! You must be joking!)

At least the Government started to take notice of the spread of the drug culture and its dangers, and indeed the difficulties the police were having with the legislation, not forgetting that the synthetic drugs were blossoming. (L. L.S.D. was now becoming very popular, and the dangers of it’s use were manifesting themselves).

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 encapsulated all previous Acts and became the prime legislation for drug offences. It was unusual for an act of parliament in that it seemed common sense. Easy to remember and easy to use – if you obtained a search warrant under the act for specified premises you could use it as many times as you liked within a month of the date of issue. Eat your heart out!

Just as it seemed we were starting to get ourselves organised, along came terrorism and knocked everything down to second place as far as CD work was concerned. Certainly drug detection work took a back seat – quite wrongly as it has worked out, as it has frequently been asserted that the I.R.A. have obtained much finance through drug dealing.

Anyway, that, and (so it was frequently rumoured) the acquisition by the force of the Netley site to turn into a training centre etc., depleted the finances to such an extent that there was little money left for anything else.

The drug squads of today are slightly better staffed, they certainly are better equipped as far as transport and communications are concerned and the involvement with H.M. Customs & Excise has advanced detection no end but how do police officers generally regard drug offences? Is the attitude still ‘Let them get on with it’? The drug craze has without doubt become much worse.

Instead of just excusing their criminal behaviour because of consumption of drugs, wrongdoers now actually plead that they HAD to steal to finance their habit of drug taking and this seems to be acceptable to some courts. The heroin and crack addicts of today didn’t start their habits on those drugs, they started on the so-called innocuous cannabis and ‘soft’ drugs and progressed,

if you can call it that, to substances that put them out of their mind and cause them to commit the most terrible deeds. We are now reaping the benefit of the permissive attitude of not so long ago.

Last year I heard a news item about a police force in the Midlands that sent an officer to the offices of a football club where a pot plant was being cultivated which information suggested was a cannabis plant. The constable that attended took a sample leaf for analysis. It turned out to be a plastic replica! Training…………… what training!

A.C. Grimwood

Allan Grimwood served from 1956 until 1958 as a Police Cadet at Fareham. In 1958 he joined up as a regular officer and was first stationed at Havant in the old station in West Street, then Winchester as a D.C. at the Broadway Police Station and later North Walls.

In 1971 he was promoted Detective Sergeant in charge of the (then) South West Hampshire Drug Squad, operating out of the Civic Centre, Southampton with four detective constables (but no transport!) to cover the whole of the City of Southampton, Eastleigh, Hythe, Totton, the whole of the New Forest and Christchurch (which was then part of Hampshire).

They ‘borrowed’ a C.I.D. mini from Southampton Central when possible, or used my private car on mileage (rarely). A lot of his work was in connection with merchant seamen bringing drugs in through the port – spin off from this was that he had a two week trip on a P & O cruise liner because the captain suspected some of his crew were using drugs. It was a hard life!

In 1974 he was posted to Fleet C.I.D. then in 1978 to Farnborough C.I.D. In 1979 he was seconded to Surrey C.I.D. for the year to work with their burglary squad, then back to Fleet C.I.D. then 1981 a ‘founding member’ of the Hampshire burglary squad (some joke in those days, with clapped out cars and no radios!), then 1983 back to Fleet C.I.D. until 1986 when he asked for a transfer to the Isle of Wight and became one of two detective sergeants acting as police liaison officers in the prisons – mainly connected with the Category ‘A’ prisoners then held, but now released. (Many stories to tell about one of the ‘spin offs’ from that job – it involved taking deportees to their home countries when they had served their time in prison!)

Allan retired in June, 1992 with the avowed intention of taking things easy.


The Drugs Squad at the Isle of Wight Pop Festival
July 1970

Photographer: Det Sgt Tony Berry (later Superintendent)

Allan says, “Tony didn’t realise we were practising the hippy  ‘peace’ gesture when he was viewing the image upside down with his plate camera. He was very annoyed when he saw the finished picture as this was his one and only ‘official’ photograph of the group.
Fortunately the Chief Constable saw the joke”

(can you help fill in the unknown names?)

 Back row: 
unknown, Marc Watts, Jock Clapperton, Alan Gough, John Harvey, Dave Hopkins, unknown;

Third Row: 
Graham Adlam, unknown, Nigel Bailey, Alan Russell, unknown, Elsie Troman:

Second row: 
unknown, Derek Long, Tom Fitchett, John Dangerfield, Jock Adams, Les Spranklin, Allan Grimwood, Mick Haycocks, unknown, unknown, Roly Jacobs, Terry Moisey:

Front Row: 
unknown, unknown, Pat Atkinson, Charlie Goddard, unknown.