By Deej Sullivan
Britain’s ‘criminal justice system’ showed its true colours yet again on Thursday as it was reported that a 13 year old girl from Bideford in Devon had appeared in court charged with possession of ONE GRAM of Cannabis.
This child was most definitely not a criminal; she was caught by police smoking a joint and was subsequently found to have another in her pocket. Yet because of our outdated and immoral prohibition laws the police deemed it necessary to spend taxpayer money on taking her to court and giving her a referral order.
Now some prohibitionists will point to this and make a claim such as ‘well if she didn’t break the law, she wouldn’t have to pay the consequences’. But let’s be clear here – if it wasn’t for prohibition, the chances are this poor girl would never have had access to Cannabis in the first place. The laws of the land are supposed to be there to protect its citizens – prohibition does not do this. In a regulated system strict age limits would be placed on Cannabis and anyone under that age would find it extremely difficult (albeit not impossible) to get their hands on it. Compare this to the current system of outright prohibition and you see a market controlled almost entirely by criminal gangs who have no interest whatsoever in protecting people and will take money from whoever comes through their door or meets them on a street corner. I think we can all agree that a 13 year old probably shouldn’t be smoking Cannabis but if we want to protect her, and all children, from harm then criminalising them is absolutely not the way to go.
Of course in this case the defendant, rather than being given a criminal record, was given a two month referral order. What this means, according to Tameside.gov, is that the young person involved will have to appear before a Referral Oder Panel accompanied by their parent. This panel consists of ‘specially trained volunteer panel members’, a youth offending team officer and the victim of the offence. They meet in order to negotiate a contract of reparation to the victim or community. The stated aim of all this is to ‘prevent re-offending by ensuring that the young person is made aware of the impact and consequences of their criminal activity’. Maybe it’s just me, but all of this seems a little absurd, especially in the case of a young person being caught with a gram of Cannabis. Who is the victim of this crime? There isn’t one. So she’ll have to pay back the community, right? But hang on; surely the only costs to the community of this ‘crime’ are the costs to the taxpayer of arresting this girl and sending her to court in the first place? And in that case, is she not repaying them for what the police have done, rather than what she herself has done? If you ask me, the whole thing is utterly ridiculous. Prohibition is oppressing people and making criminals out of them for doing nothing but smoking a joint. Legalise, regulate and tax and the police can get back to doing their stated job – protecting the people from genuine criminals.
The only positive aspect I can see in all of this is that at least this particular case has not yet led to a criminal record. However this is not always the case and many young people in similar situations have been left with such a record. When this happens the punishment is far more destructive to that individual’s life than the so-called crime. A criminal record is a blight on a person’s life; all it does is hold someone back from being successful and forces them into a cycle of criminal behaviour that is often almost impossible to break. In the case of this young girl, if she was to break the conditions of her reparation contract then it is likely she would be resentenced and would almost certainly then be given a criminal record. To rephrase that – she would become a criminal in the eyes of the law, the government and society at large.
To do this to anyone, let alone a child, is a far more criminal and destructive act than taking any drug. If the government really want what is best for its citizens then it is time to re-examine our drug laws. To continue to ignore the scientific evidence and the will of the people would only serve to prove the truly criminal nature of our justice system.