09 Jun Where’s the Justice? Time For an Impact Assessment?

Today, the 9th of June 2011, the Sun has printed a front page firmly aimed at mocking Ken Clarke with a view to ousting him from his position of Justice Secretary. Other redtops also take a similar stance in a vote of no confidence in his acumen. Kenneth Clarke has faced a barrage of complaint over the last few weeks regarding his overtly insensitive remarks, and he now finds himself it the midst of another crisis of confidence.

The fact of the matter is, the role of Justice Secretary was mandated to cut sentences given how overpopulated our prisons are, and to slash the obscene budget of our judicial costs. The drain on our resources due to drugs can be seen here at Transform’s cost benefit analysis: ‘A Comparison of the Cost-effectiveness of the Prohibition and Regulation of Drugs

Only last year, Louise Casey – the first Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses – was vocal in the press about how the current system is failing in the support of the victims of crime, with serious offenders escaping judicial measures due to costs. The priority to victim based crime is surely not in contention.

Like a creaking ship under a large body of weight of scrutiny, the British justice system has rapidly become a farce, and yet, we are still prosecuting non problematic drug users, and sending those with substance abuse problems to prison. It is no secret that our prisons are rife with drugs; on the 30th November 2010, Newsnight held a discussion about how non drug users often come away from prison with drug habits.

In light of recent events, there is a massive body of support to seriously address the issue of how drugs and the judicial system are ugly bedfellows, and how current laws fully exacerbate the problem. We also cannot discount the notion that substance users are non problematic; please see the Drug Equality Alliance for this area of discussion.

Despite facts and figures to the contrary, the Government accepts that those that consume alcohol can largely do so responsibly, but the Home Office is unable to back this claim up with any degree of fact. The Government cannot accept that any other substance can be used with any degree of responsibility, therefore, judicial measures are warranted. The Governement fully brushes under the carpet the weight of marketing, and the £800million a year budget of alcohol advertising; not to mention the breach of codes and practices within the alcohol industry. We must look to where alcohol has failed and make suitable amends. As a rational society, we see the merits of not locking an alcoholic up, and yet there seems to be a pseudo logic to imprisoning non problematic users of cannabis.

If Britain had any degree of mind for rational debate, we would undertake a full impact assessment of our current drug policy, but the Government are more anchored in their approach to tough-line measures than ever before, and dismissive to a discussion on alternatives.

CLEAR urges all supporters to write to your MP, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Justice Secretary; Ken Clarke, and Baroness Browning; the Crime Prevention Minister. We must have an impact assessment on our current drug policy at the very least.