Pubdate: Sun, 9 Jan 2000
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: Guardian Media Group plc. 2000
Authors: (1) Lorraine Hewitt (2) Hugh Robertson (3) Robert Merkin (4) Gerald
M. Sutliff


This prosecution against Ruth  and John Brock (Comment, last
week) was brought and vicious sentences imposed under the 'Premises'
section of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which makes it a criminal offence
for third parties knowingly to permit heroin or cannabis use in their
property. This section was never intended to snare hapless parents,
unaware landlords or altruistic social workers and urgently needs revising.

Drug use and exchange is common and hard to control in NHS wards, in
prisons, in hostels and specialists' services. The majority of senior
staff in these disparate settings at some time will have made Ruth
Wyner's choice, to impose sanctions but not to report infractions to
the police. Indeed for many years it has been seen as good practice
for agencies to maintain strategic liaison with local police in return
for which the police do not harass them. This judgment unilaterally
undermines future co-operation between police and care services.

Lorraine Hewitt South London and Maudsley NHS Trust London

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The story of Ruth Wyner and John Brock shows one effect of the War on
Drugs - the imprisonment of people who do not belong there. If the
police and prosecution applied the same logic to this country's
prisons, then every prison governor in the country would be up in
court for allowing heroin dealing on the premises.

Hugh Robertson
The Legalise Cannabis Alliance
PO Box 198, Norwich

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The imprisonment of Ruth Wyner and John Brock is a perversion. As a
volunteer manager with a church-alliance emergency winter homeless
shelter in the United States, any of my colleagues could easily have
landed in precisely the same predicament at the bizarre but
commonplace whims of our nation's police and prosecutors.

What Judge Jonathan Haworth, police and prosecutors have done is fully
the moral equivalent of Nazi justice. Every process that led to it -
Acts of Parliament and government, methods of appointing judges, the
'tough on drugs/wrong message to our children' posturing for which we
robotically re-elect our politicians - is a symptom of a profoundly
disturbed society whose most educated have chosen to abandon moral

The universal prelude to the American, French, Russian, or the
just-accomplished Eastern European revolutions is a regime whose elite
systematically manufactures injustice and rigidly enobles it as
policy. When our most committed neighbours find themselves enemies of
the state, things change abruptly, and those who were Judge Haworths
are escorted from the bench to the dock.

Robert Merkin

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I no longer believe that the US has the most ruthless drug warriors in
the Western world. Even your judges, like ours, are subject to
political ambition and lynch-mob mentality.

Gerald M. Sutliff
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