The presence of ostensibly illegal drugs on our streets has taxed politicians and law enforcement agencies for decades, and as I noted a while ago, the “war on drugs”, for all the resources thrown at it, succeeds in taking very little of these substances off those streets. No matter how “tough” the policy, the drugs get through.
This, though, has not permeated the dunghill that is Grubstreet, where Daily Mail hack “Mad” Melanie Phillips is today on the warpath against what she perceives as the undue leniency of the justice system towards those caught supplying illegal drugs. Mel wants to lock dealers up – all of them. The thought does not enter that this approach does not work: someone else will take the place of whoever is banged up.
And if the Phillips agenda were to be followed, there would need to be a serious expansion of prison places. Right now, this is just over 87,000. If everyone convicted of Possession With Intent To Supply, Unlawful Supply, Unlawful Production, or Unlawful Import/Export (1998 figures) were imprisoned, around 21,000 prison places would be required.
According to this sample article from the Maily Telegraph (which Mel could have also referenced, had she been bothered), around half of convicted dealers were imprisoned in 2007. So Mel’s approach would need another ten and a half thousand prison places. I do hope she and her legendarily foul mouthed editor have their cheque books at the ready.
Moreover, as I pointed out at the time of the C4 documentary Our Drugs War, even with all the law enforcement resources that the UK throws at this problem, the amount of illegal drugs that fails to get through is, approximately, all of 1% of the total. Making drugs illegal hands an entire industry – growth and harvesting, packaging, shipping, distribution and of course regulation – to organised criminality.
Not to mention quality control, or the complete lack of it: the reason so many of these drugs are deadly is because the whole trade runs without any kind of proper oversight. This, of course, does not trouble Melanie Phillips, and neither does the role of her preferred platform in stopping any kind of grown-up and rational debate on the subject.When Mad Mel says “the actual problem is a loss of moral compass among those responsible”, she fails to understand that she too is responsible, and that her moral compass is the one that is lacking, as she and her fellow Mail hacks continue to shout down those who would address the issue, preferring instead to indulge in cowardly and pointless whingeing.