Archive for July 16th, 2010

Chairman of the Bar calls for decriminalisation of drug use

Nick Green QC is chairman of the Bar Council, the professional organisation of barristers in the UK. Writing in the organisation’s magazine this month, Green called for the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use, arguing (rightly) that a growing body of evidence supports the proposition that decriminalisation can have a number of positive consequences for drugs users and society. He lists the freeing up of police resources, the reduction of crime and the revolving door of imprisonment as peace dividends of ending the drug war, alongside improved public health. Noting that much of the mass media are given to moralising gestures and the whipping up of panic when it comes to drugs, he argues that the Bar Council, made up of lawyers and counting most judges amongst its ex-members, is in a good position to provide a rational argument, being familiar with both sides of the drug policy argument.

Mr Green’s intervention represents another profession speaking out in support of drug law reform at a time when the tide appears to be turning away from the prohibitionist model that was tried throughout the twentieth century, failed to suppress the flow of illegal drugs and added its own side-effects (including an entrenched criminal market and a global epidemic of injection-driven HIV) to those of the drug problems it was supposed to prevent.

Release report

At last – some serious intervention from professionals in our sector.  I agree.  Why doesn’t the Government think the unthinkable and really look at this.  Why should the state pay vast sums to fight a drugs war that just cannot be won?

Here is an important comment extracted from the comments section

Steve Rolles

heres the Bar Council report


he says:

“It was pleasing to see the new Lord Chancellor, Ken Clarke, advocating prison reform in the media. Inevitably the initial reaction in the Shires was that he had already “lost touch” with “normal people”. In a period of acute fiscal austerity it is essential that politicians seek to do what is right and not what sounds right. So far the new MoJ is making good noises. Initial meetings with the new Lord Chancellor and his team suggest that they are intent on working through issues to see what works. In this, we will support them to the hilt. If the prison population could be reduced from circa 85,000 to 80,000 it could save over £200m per annum, and there is a great deal of research from elsewhere to suggest that a less “bang ’em up” approach to sentencing actually reduces crime. The tabloids’ response, which is to throw more people into custody, simply does not work.

Another political hot potato is drugs. Drug related crime costs the economy about £13bn a year. Again a growing body of comparative evidence suggests that decriminalising personal use can have positive consequences; it can free up huge amounts of police resources, reduce crime and recidivism and improve public health. All this can be achieved without any overall increase in drug usage. If this is so, then it would be rational to follow suit.

A rational approach is not usually the response of large parts of the media when it comes to issues relating to criminal justice. This is something the Bar Council can address. We are apolitical; we act for the prosecution and the defence and most of the judiciary are former members. We can speak out in favour of an approach which urges policies which work and not those which simply play to the gallery. And this will save money and mean that there is less pressure on the justice system.”


Please – if you are interested in this topic – look at the comments. Sackerson makes some good points and provides a link.  I shall return to this on Monday

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