Monday, January 22, 2007

Home Office split: - dibs on who gets drugs

The media is full of reports that the Home Office could be split in two. Despite the fact that the idea was rejected by Blair when Charles Clarke was Home Secretary, it is apparently now back on the cards after another high profile Home Office debacle, this time to do with records of overseas offences not being recorded in the UK database.


The idea, apparently, is that the Home Office will be split into a ministry of justice and a ministry of security. Quite aside from the fight over which one gets the shiney new £700 million Home Office building (photographed below by my own fair hand), there will no doubt be an equally energetic scuffle over who doesn't get to keep the drug policy brief. Obviously the international illegal drugs trade is contributing to all sorts of security issues, fuelling conflict around the world and funding terrorism and violent organised crimainl networks. Its also causing havoc throughout the domestic criminal justice system. So with the drug strategy consistently undermining both security and justice, the new ministry's will be fighting to be rid of it. Its probably a safe bet that either camp would rather go back to their previous home in that nasty 70s tower block than take on the poinsoned chalice of enforcing prohibition.


One of the problems plaguing the Home Office is ofcourse the prison's overcrowding crisis, which is in large part the fault of the the UKs disaterous drug policy - as developed and implemented by the Home Office. Not only are 17% of inmates drug offenders of various kinds, mostly non violent, but probably at least half of the remainder are inside for drug-related offending - mostly aquisitive property crime to support a heroin and/or crack habit. The Home Office's own research, backed up by the Prime Ministers Strategy Unit Report on drugs, suggests that crime committed to support an illegal habit is valued at £11-16 billion a year. By coincidence the Home Office's entire budget is also £16 billion a year.


The Home Office also estimates that it spends £2 to £3.5 billion a year(of £16 billion a year total) enforcing the drug laws and dealing with all this drug and drug realeted crime (policing, courts, prison, probabtion etc), the vast majority of which is a direct result of the futile but dogged enforcement of prohibition.


If the Home Office wanted to dramatically reduce crime at all scales, reduce the prison population, and free up huge resources for dealing with all that tricky paperwork and pesky real-criminals, then considering some cautious phased drug policy and law reform might seem a sensible place to start. Then they wouldnt have to decide who carried the drug policy brief because they could hand it over to the Department of Health where it belongs.

8 comments:

j3ckyl said...

Yes, but we all know that makes far too much sense to actually happen. God forbid our government should actually do something meaningful and non-detrimental to society, like listening to common sense and swallowing their pride.

Bob said...

Nice photo by the way.

Its the age old question, why is being an alcoholism covered by the DoH, yet heroin addiction covered by the Home Office?

j3ckyl said...

because that would be admitting that alcohol is a drug and everyone knows that the fat cats don't want you thinking bad things like that.

Steve R said...

Bob - this might be food for thought

http://www.tdpf.org.uk/Policy_General_Whythisbutnotthis.htm

Andrew said...

Is the drugs trade really funding terrorism? ...i know it's a line often trotted out in the media, but there isn't really very much 'terrrorism' and what there is seems to be low budget for something that allegedly has access to the vast funds created by an illegal drugs trade.

I'd have thought that Transform would be of the view the 'drugs fund terrorism' was just another brick in the wall of drug demonisation...

Anonymous said...

Do we really care that some more well paid corrupt incompetents get to mess up things again,

Bob said...

Andrew; Yes, in fact the explosives purchased for the Madrid bombings of late were financed by hash dealing. Plus of course all the internal terrorism in producer countries such as Colombia.

Steve R said...

Andrew - 'terrorism' is an emotive and often poory defined term which I probably shouldnt have used, but then it is thrown around so liberally by the Home Office and media i fell that gives me a bit of license. Perhaps armed conflict and political instability would be more objective.

But what isnt in question is that illegal drug profits are the single largest source of cash for all manner of armed groups, in Afghanistan, Colombia and beyond. Much of that cash ends up buying arms and fuelling conflict and violence, some of which would reasonably come under the banner of terrorism however you define it.

There was a campaign in the states that linked drug consumption (as oposed to prohibition) with the funding of terrorism. Rather daftly it focused on cannabis -if I remember rightly - which didnt make much sense since most of it is produced internally or from canada/mexico.

Of course no terrorists or armed groups are being funded by legal alcohol or tobacco production, nor from the more than 50% of global opium production that is legal and licensed for medical use. Prohibition creates opportunities for criminals at all scales, and legal regulation removes those opportunities. Thats basically the point im trying to make.