Origins of ‘Crack’ cocaine in the UK

‘This was a man of about 19 years old at the time, who was arrested clearly under the influence of something, and in such a state that he snapped his handcuffs’

‘Crack’ cocaine, smoked through a pipe to deliver a short intense high, afflicted large numbers of addicts in the United Kingdom, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s.

Many people also suffered injury and death in ‘crack’-related crimes. Several international and local gangs made vast sums of money as UK crack dealers. Other people did well out of ‘crack’ too, as the following raw document suggests.

But when, and how, did ‘crack’ cocaine first reach the UK?

Some clues arose on 9 June 1989, when David Scott, a police officer, swore an affidavit in a county court at Southport in the north-west of England.

Scott also submitted his legal deposition to the Liverpool 8 Inquiry conducted by Lord Gifford QC.

Scott’s affidavit was published by the inquiry as an Appendix in Loosen the shackles: the first report of the Liverpool 8 inquiry into Race Relations in Liverpool. Liverpool 8 is an area of the north-west English city where African, Caribbean, Indian and people of Asian origin settled alongside an ‘indigenous’ English and Irish population. Subsequent generations, born in the area, continued to consider the area as their home. But they also experienced racial discrimination, especially in the wider Liverpool jobs market, and on their own streets from the police.

Serious rioting broke out in July 1981, following a series of racially charged arrests of local young people by police officers. Tensions remained high during certain periods in the years that followed.

The area includes Toxteth, Granby, Granby Street and Hope Street.

Appendix D

 

Affidavit of David Scott

 

‘I, DAVID SCOTT presently residing in Liverpool hereby make Oath and say as follows:

‘1. I was born in Liverpool 8 on the 12th September 1942. After a 12 year period serving in the Army, I joined the Merseyside Constabulary where I served as a Police Officer from the 5th November 1975 until the 7th March 1988 when I was discharged for medical reasons.

‘2. In early 1983 I was posted to the Toxteth Division. My duties were to collect intelligence about drug dealing and active criminals; I was based at Hope Street as an ordinary Police Officer unattached to any special grouping. Later I was selected as a Community Police Officer, on the beat in the Granby area and in particularly (sic) Granby Street itself.

‘3. At this particular time hard drugs were not circulating in the area. Only cannabis or cannabis resin were widely available and the use of cannabis in Liverpool 8 appeared to be largely tolerated in the area and did not appear to lead to violence or anti-social behaviour. I understood that my particular brief was to watch for the possible introduction of hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine into the area which were already prevalent in other parts of Liverpool.

‘4. I did observe the first signs of the selling of and use of hard drugs and reported it accordingly. In particular I can refer to a series of reports that I made to Hope Street (Toxteth Section), F Division, on form 104, between September of 1986 and May of 1987. In these reports I set out in enormous detail information I had obtained from informants, had checked myself, and incidents I had myself observed, pinpointing the Liverpool men from outside the area who appeared to be master-minding the circulation of drugs and who were beginning to use black people in the Liverpool 8 area to sell drugs for them. I firmly believe that if Police action had been taken at this time, a halt could have been called to the escalation of the use of the hard drugs in the area which tragically has now occurred.

‘5. It was hard to understand why the intelligence I was obtaining and passing on was not put to use. It seemed that the only intelligence that was wanted was that concerning small local people and not the major dealers/criminals from outside the Division. Of the individuals and families named by me in the reports referred to, some have eventually been arrested but some two years or so after I filed my reports, by which time the availability of hard drugs had become entrenched, and if one arrest were made a relative or associate would simply take over the same business.

‘6. Other uniformed Officers such as myself could not understand why we were not encouraged in our efforts to deal forcefully with the problem of hard drugs. We felt that it was a dereliction of our duty in the area. From my experiences over this period it seemed that there was too much inter-departmental jealousy within the Force, with different sections wishing to keep control of different areas of crime. Individual officers wanted to continue to work with their own informers. Some of the drug dealers appeared to be making individual deals with individual Police officers so that their own activities would not in fact be curtailed.

The Force policy in general appeared to be that anything, since the 1981 riots, was better than a public order confrontation in Liverpool 8, and therefore hard drugs would be allowed in, the community would be left to “Dope itself up” or “Keep the lid on” and thus the community which it was perceived might otherwise cause great problems for the Police in the area would be suppressed by being allowed to focus all its activity upon drug circulation and use. Meanwhile local Officers would be able to work increasingly large amounts of overtime, of which I will give details below – the incentive apparently needed for Officers to work in the area in the first place.

‘7. The intelligence that I was providing on hard drugs, on major dealers and criminals in the City, on the use of guns in the area, and of instances of corruption amongst Police Officers, was all provided at a time when swift action could have been taken if there had been the will to act. I was told that the reports I was submitting were going directly to the Chief Constable.

‘8. It appeared that the only use made of my information was to gather together endless information, based partly on my own local knowledge, of who was married to whom, associated with whom, etc. I was in fact asked to be responsible for setting up a photo gallery at Hope Street. Many of the photographs were taken from the files of local people arrested but some of the photographs displayed were of people who did not have criminal records at all. Equally I had to collate written records of local people which showed their names and addresses, details of the type of offending known or suspected in their connection, and including a column headed MER number, standing for Merseyside Crime Reference Number. Again, many of the names and addresses had no entry under “MER” indicating that they were people who had never been convicted of an offence. The photographs were kept under lock and key. I believe that this situation was particular to Hope Street and that local Police stations generally would not keep records for people without CRO records.

‘9. The only Senior Officers during this time who made real use of the information I was gathering were not from the Merseyside Police but the Special Investigation Section of HM Customs and Excise. I provided information about drug dealers and particularly people going abroad, either on their own behalf or paid for by other major Liverpool criminals to import drugs. Such information related to trips paid to Amsterdam, Spain and Jamaica, and my reports between September 1986 and May 1987 refer to 14 such instances which were passed on to Customs and Excise.

’10. I also recall during the period of intense intelligence gathering that I have referred to, becoming aware of the first victim of “crack” in Liverpool 8. This was a man of about 19 years old at the time, who was arrested clearly under the influence of something, and in such a state that he snapped his handcuffs. From my observation of him, and what I had seen in the United States whilst serving in the Army, I realised that he must be on the drug known as “crack”. My observations were reported to the effect that this new drug must be now coming in to the area but I was told to “stop being a clown”. However some time after this the first crack factory in the United Kingdom was discovered in Liverpool 8 at Kelvin Grove. Eventually, drug dealers started coming from London to buy heroin and cocaine to resell, as the large quantities arriving through Garston Dock and Bootle made Liverpool prices cheap.

’11. Whilst as outline above, there appeared to be no will within the Force as a whole to tackle and eliminate the use of hard drugs during this period, there was often concerted effort to bring local people before the Courts on Public Order charges even if the evidence was not all it should be. I recall particularly a case charging two young men Leroy Thomas and Leslie Bruce Thompson with Public Order offences at the Liverpool Magistrates Court. There had been an incident in Granby Street, Liverpool 8, when I had been present and I had in fact been holding on to Leslie Thompson throughout the incident in order to calm him down and keep him from getting involved – he was a local lad who had just successfully got a job with my help and nobody wanted him to get into any bother. I was later to discover that Officers at the scene had mixed up the two young men Leroy Thomas and Leslie Thompson and had in fact arrested Leroy Thomas but using the name of the other. It was obvious to me that a serious miscarriage of justice was going to be done by the way in which Officers in the case had compiled false notebook entries. For a week their notebooks were not made up. I went to Court determined to put the matter straight. I was called a “Nigger lover” in the corridor by other Officers and there was a row in the canteen. I was called to give evidence only at the very end of the Prosecution case against these two young men after 8 different Police Offices had already given evidence that Thomas and Thompson had assaulted them. When I gave my evidence, that I had been holding on to Thompson all the time, the case against Thompson was dismissed at the conclusion of the Prosecution case. Before I left the Court, the Chair of the Bench of the Magistrates said to me “Officer, think about your position”. An Inspector subsequently threatened me with discipline although Discipline and Complaints Officers who were present in Court never were to make any investigation.

’12. I have referred in paragraph 6 to the question of overtime. Whilst I was in the Toxteth section its strength consisted of four shifts or blocks each containing one Inspector, two Sergeants and 20 Constables. In addition there would be a day Inspector and a Chief Inspector. With the CID, as well there would be a Detective Inspector, four Detective Sergeants and 10 Detective Constables. Because there were so many Officers they were often terribly bored and partly to alleviate this and partly to compensate for having to work in the section at all, Officers became accustomed to receiving considerable overtime – 80 to 90 hours overtime in a month. If the available overtime dropped, Officers would fill in what were known as “tension indicators”, on form 104 saying for example that bottles and bricks had been thrown in Granby Street the previous night. Overtime would immediately be reinstated on the basis of such a report and other Officers from outside Toxteth put on standby duty resulting in further overtime. On more than one occasion I had to explain to Senior Officers that incidents quoted on form 104 simply hadn’t happened because I had been in Granby Street at the relevant time and knew that there had been no disturbance. I was told to be (sic) a Senior Officer that if such reports upped the overtime that was good for the Officers’ morale. He told me that bobbies would not work in Toxteth without the overtime.

’13. Throughout my time within the Division, I was conscious of the racism prevalent amongst other Officers. My own wife Michelle who works as a care assistant for Social Services was born in Liverpool 8 of a Jamaican father who came to the City in 1941 and still lives here. Whilst I was at Hope Street my own Police helmet was daubed inside with the words “Yankee Nigger Lover” (the word Yankee referring to the time I had spent in the United States). There were many occasions when I had to speak to Control on the Police radio, and other Officers listening in as soon as they heard my voice would say “It’s Shithead” or “It’s the Nigger Lover” – an extremely embarrassing situation for me because of course these messages would be widely broadcast. Officers were not deterred from making racist remarks in my wife’s presence. A Senior Officer once said to her “Your husband is doing a good job with those fucking Niggers down there”. Another Senior Officer said to me “Your wife’s not a Nigger. She’s got a black father, but she is a half-caste, she is not a Nigger so take no notice of what the other Officers say”. Use of the word “Nigger” was commonplace. When we were sent for riot training the Instructor would say “when these Niggers come at us…” At meetings with the Police Federation, whenever a Police Officer had been injured within the Division, people would say “we’ve got to deal with these Niggers”. There was a particular Inspector who had a ferocious hatred of “those fucking Niggers”. At community meetings of Police Officers held at Admiral Street all the emphasis was upon targeting individual Black people or clubs in the area and there was no discussion of tackling major crime in the area and the real criminals using other people within the community. Other Officers began to refuse to work with me or pass on relevant information and I became quite isolated.

’14. I recall a further incident when a local black lad called Darryl Husband came into the Police Station with a collecting tin for the children’s bonfire that was being held in Granby. I took it from him and passed it around the station but when it came back and was handed back to the young man, a Senior Officer had written on it “Darryl’s coke fund”, the inference being that money would not be collected for the children but for cocaine.

’15. I am willing to co-operate with any investigation set up as a result of this affidavit to the Liverpool 8 Inquiry conducted by Lord Gifford QC.

‘Sworn by the above named Deponent at Southport in the County of Sefton

this 9th day of June 1989

Before me

A Solicitor’