Friday, 23 April 2010

Two Sailors and the General election

David Cameron's claim that he had met a 40 year old black man who had served in the Royal Navy for 30 years

has left him the butt of numerous jokes.   My favourite is Fridgemagnet's Cameron Poster generator which provides hours of entirely unproductive fun.  An example of the Cameron Poster's it produces is

However the election has not been fun for another former sailor, Mark Solomon of Stroud in Gloucestershire.  Mark is angry with politicians (I wonder why - suggestions on an expenses form please) and the sight of them on his TV after he has had a drink often results in him shouting at his TV.  This has earned him an ASBO.  On Thursday 8th April Judge Picton released him from two weeks on remand in prison with a sentence of 200 hours unpaid work, 60 days training and a requirement to report to court monthly for breaching his ASBO.

Within a week Mark Solomon was again back in court for shouting at politicians on his TV.  This time he was jailed for 16 weeks. That means he is inside for the election and has lost his right to vote.

So to recap

MPs jailed for fiddling expenses = 0
Voters jailed for angry shouting at MPs on TV = 1

British justice don't you just love it.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Britain Safe for 48 hours

Following bold action by Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, the young people of England, Scotland, Wales and part of Ireland were safe for 48 hours this weekend.  Johnson in the early hours of Friday morning banned the drug Mephedrone following advice from the AMCD that they hadn't got a clue.

Websites that sold so called "legal highs" are temporarily closed as they stock up with a new product range

Hot tip is 5,6-Methylenedioxy-2-aminoindane normally referred to as MDAI which is very similar to ecstasy.

A quick internet search shows a growing wholesale market

Is it safer or more harmful than Mephedrone?  Is it safer or more dangerous than alcohol? 

Who knows?  Certainly the Government has no intention in providing good quality scientific advice.  Instead they will after a few months of soundbites end up banning it and giving us a 48 hour break before the next "legal high" hits the online retailers.

Meanwhile what is the bet this new product will be heavily promoted by media condemnation over the coming weeks?

Friday, 16 April 2010

Alcohol Kills but Meow Meow makes headlines

On the day before Mephedrone was made illegal I received a circular e-mail from the University's very own police office one PC Matt Holloway

For the information of all staff and students.

From 00:01 am on Friday 16th April 2010, Mephedrone (aka Meow Meow, Bubble and Mcat) and more than 10 other very similar drugs become controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act to a Class B drug.

There is no "amnesty" period and anyone found in possession of the drug will be dealt with in exactly the same way as they would be for other Class B drugs such as Amphetamine (which Mephedrone is closely related to).

This brings penalties of up to 5 years imprisonment for possession and 14 years imprisonment for supplying or possession with intent to supply the drug.

Mephedrone is a very dangerous drug and has had a lot of media attention over the last few months but there are other very similar drugs in the same chemical group that are also used regularly and they too have been controlled under this legislation. The most common of these are Methylone, Methedrone and MDPV.

If you have any questions in relation to this then please contact the UWE beat manager PC Matt Holloway in Room 1E20. His contact details are found via the Police web page - Bristol UWE - Operations and Security
One phrase stuck out
Mephedrone is a very dangerous drug and has had a lot of media attention over the last few months
So I thought I would research PC Holloway's claims.   So I had a look at the latest edition of the Lancet which had an article on the ban.  It stated that:
the ACMD report, Consideration of the cathinones, which recommended the ban, documented the very scanty evidence on mephedrone, including the absence of a direct causal link between the reported deaths and the drug. ... There was little time to consider carefully the scientific evidence on mephedrone. The ACMD did not have sufficient evidence to judge the harms caused by this drug class.
 So on the one hand we have PC Holloway claiming that it 'is a very dangerous drug' and on the other the Lancet claiming that there is not 'sufficient evidence to judge the harms '.  Which one should I believe on this medical and scientific issue?

But PC Holloway is correct about the media moral panic coverage and we see a classic example of this today in the Daily Mail

The headline could not be clearer - someone died after taking meow meow.  However on reading
the article I find right at the bottom this paragraph
The Inquest heard that although meow meow and Valium were found in Miss Main's blood, it was a combination of alcohol and GHB which killed her.
So despite the headline it was not mephedrone but alcohol and GBH which contributed to her death. This is not an unimportant fact in the debate over mephedrone as it is likely that many users who are put off by it being made illegal will instead use alcohol. A drug with a very proven track record of harm and death. This displacement may end up causing more harm including more deaths. But does PC Holloway warn the staff and students of UWE of this killer drug?

It is a silence often shared by politicians and the media

Illicit Drugs are Bad says New Labour in spoof of South Park

I searched the Labour Party Manifesto for mention of drugs and came across this

On drugs, our message is clear: we will not tolerate illegal drug use.

Is this a deliberate parody of South Park?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

British Chiropractic Association v Singh - BCA admits defeat.

Great news for acedemic freedom of speech today as an announcement is made by Ely Place Chambers who represent Simon in his defence of a libel action brought by the British Chiropractic Association in relation to an article Simon wrote for the Guardian's Comment is Free.  In the article Simon questioning whether chiropractors should be treating various childhood  conditions. The BCA sued him but not the Guardian.

The orginal hearing had ruled that Simon was not expressing an opinion but statements of facts that required him to prove that all chiropractory didn't work.  An impossible task!!  He successfully appealed this ruling last month. This ruling has led the BCA to review there case and withdraw it.

Well done Simon

More background to the case here:
Bad Science
Jack of Kent’s blog

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Creating crime - Its as easy as picking low hanging fruit

What is crime is a matter of debate.  As Nils Christie has pointed out there is an unlimited number of 'acts' which can chose to define as crimes. One area which has seen a real growth of 'crime' in both the UK and the US has been behaviour in school.  Matters that have traditional regarded as internal matters to be dealt with through the schools disciplinary procedures are increasingly being criminalised.  For the police it is like taking sweets off a kid - well easy.  But the convictions and cautions are criminal records that rule out life opportunities for the children involved.

An example of how far this has gone is illustrated by this news from New York

Friday, 9 April 2010

Daily Telegraph Moral Panic Journalism and Mephedrone Pushing

On the 17th March Daily Telegraph hack Heidi Blake wrote about Mephedrone and the dangers it presented; which she claimed, following the Telegraph editorial line required an immediate ban. Her article went under the headline Mephedrone: the truth about 'miaow miaow' In the article Blake claimed that:

In November Gabrielle Price, 14, of Worthing West Sussex, died after allegedly taking the drug.
What Blake didn't say was that in December, less than a month after Gabrielle's tragic death Sussex police announced that following toxicology tests:
It has now been established that death resulted from cardiac arrest following broncho-pneumonia which resulted from a streptococcal A infection.
As it was clear that Gabrielle's death was from natural causes, and had nothing whatsoever to do with Mephedrone or any other drug, there was no need for a full inquest.

I therefore saw a certain irony when my attention was drawn to th screen shot below posted on the web by badjournalism. It shows a search for stories on mephedrone on the Daily Telegraph website. As well as these stories the viewer is also directed to a number of suppliers of the drug. These are paid adverts provided by google. So although the Telegraph demands an immediate ban in the meantime they are happy to earn their referral fees from the pushers.

As you can see Heidi Blake story is shown up by the search which looks like it was done on the following day, March 18th.

The Telegraph has subsquently run a story revealing the Government's tax revenue from the plant food/ drug was £584,303.  How could they make money off the pedling of this evil? A case of throwing stones in a glasshouse methinks.

Hattip badjournalism

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Prisoner Ben on the Bristol Prison Riot

Brilliant blog from Ben Gunn on his inside experience of the 1990 Bristol prison Riot/Uprising on his blog PrisonerBen.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Riot and Reform
The Bristol Prison Riot - A Personal Reflection - April 8th 1990.

The secret burden of imprisonment is that it is a mindlessly boring existence. It is dull and un-changing, from one year to the next everything moves to the beat of the same metronomic, life-sapping rhythm. The same cell, the same neighbours, the same routine, the same staff, the same food.

This elevates any break from the routine into an event of greater significance, it encourages a hothouse of gossip and rumour - any purchase that can be extracted from the smallest of events is leapt upon in an effort to mitigate the unremitting sameness. I once overslept and, not having seen me for a few hours the rumour was generated that I'd been shipped-out for some heinous act of rebellion. There was some sense of disappointment when I appeared for my lunch.

Such deadening dullness threaded the evening of Sunday, April the 1st 1990. Except that the largest prisoner uprising in British history was underway at Strangeways prison, played out across the communal TV that we absorbed at each opportunity. The events in Manchester sent a ripple through the system, and gave a glimpse of the possibilities that lay before each of us - we need not always accept being treated as subhuman. Each new news bulletin demoralised the staff. And yet this was a media event, it involved us in some way but was also held at bay by the thick glass of the television screen.

And then there followed a revolt at Dartmoor prison. Rightly renowned for its calculated indifference, brutality and contempt, a revolt was felt as being the only proper response. Short lived though the Dartmoor revolt was, it was necessary to evacuate some of the cons. As the nearest local prison, Horfield became their reception centre.

It was the understanding of cons at Horfield that those refugees sent from Dartmoor were not those involved in the riot. Drawing up to the prison on coaches, they were taunted by their police escort and became fractious. They were placed on A-Wing, a long Victorian construction usually holding short-termers.

Those, including myself, on the long-termer B-Wing had no knowledge of the events occurring on A-Wing. At just after 7pm, wing staff began instructing us to bang-up. This was an hour early; but given the vagaries of prison life we made no efforts to resist what we assumed was some small local emergency.

Using the urinal in the Three's recess, I could see some commotion on the second floor bridge/walkway that linked A-Wing with B and C Wings. It was unclear, but that there were cons and staff involved in some melee looked to be a fair assumption. We continued to bang-up.

Being at the rear of the wing, I didn't witness the unedifying scene of B-Wing staff running away to the gatehouse at the front of the prison. If I had, it would have made little sense - we were all locked up, the wing was secure.

Only when figures appeared on B-Wing's flat roof did we begin to appreciate what was developing around us. A-Wing was under the control of cons, and a number of cons on C-Wing were also out of their cells. All of the staff had run away. These people were now on our roof and were passing down to our windows lengths of metal ripped from the landings on A-Wing. Some of them were also searching out named individuals on my wing, those said to be the worst sex-cases.

My visceral urge to join a revolt was tempered by the fact that my first parole hearing was within a few months. Should I accept the reality that parole was not to happen - or should I continue to cling to the false hope generated by the process? I had served ten years.

The decision was taken out of my hands; my neighbour smashed through our adjoining wall - "Do you want to come out?". Like it or not, with a bloody great hole in my wall, I was involved. Not that this was a simple decision; history had taught us that after the riot there could be fearsome and violent retribution from the staff. Rioting is not being cheeky to some screw, it's not punching a governor in the eye; to rebel en-masse is to grip the whole edifice of power by the throat and spit in its face. The consequences of this would never be good, leading to a mixture of fear and excitement with each step further across the boundary. Moving through to his cell, we smashed our way through a series of adjoining cells until a small group of us was stationed in one cell. Each wall we breached increased our confidence and culpability. This was the place where we would smash our way out onto the landing spur. Using metal bars passed from the roof, it took some time to smash through the double layer of brick that presented the obstacle.

Once out on the landing, we found ourselves to be in a unique position. Each spur on the wing (three spurs on each of three landings) was locked off with a gate - except ours. This gave us access to the stairs, the whole of the ground floor, and the gated hatch to the roof. Whilst some attempted to smash through into other spurs, I forayed down to the ground and the PO's office. One of our party had badly cut his hand whilst smashing out of the cells, and I wanted the first aid kit. Dick was just ahead of me; the later consensus was that he wished to obtain any paperwork that identified him as an informer-come-rapist. Whilst I took the first aid kit, Dick stole the money from the staff kitty.

Back to the Threes. Our toughest obstacle was the gate that was set into the ceiling, preventing access to the roof. Shifts of cons worked from above and below to smash the concrete housing and, hours later, we had our 'time in the open air'.
The roof was flat, as was the identical C-Wing, although the Victorian A-Wing had a steeply pitched roof. It was damp, with occasional drizzle. Near the front was a concrete 'bunker' that held the water-tank.

I wandered the roof, enjoying the vista of the city laid out before me. Behind the nick was a residential road and the locals must have caught a sense of our excitement they stood in their bedroom windows watching, some holding up their kids to wave. If they had known the nature of some of those now held back by only the perimeter, waving their kids would have been the last thing...

A deep sense of satisfaction settled upon me. Looking across the wall I could see the gathering swarm of police who secured the perimeter. Down the internal road the riot screws, still known to us as Mufti squads, massed in their shields and armour like centurions out of time - or a carpet of cockroaches, their Kevlar carapace reflecting the moisture of the night air. I knew that they would return, and I knew that we would lose, but at that moment their prison was ours.

The water-tank bunker seemed to present a good strong-point, concrete with only two access points. I organised urns of water and bread and jam to be brought from our servery on the ground floor - any hope of holding out rested on physical resources as well as mental ones.

The excitement was too much for most. The majority of the rioters were short-termers from A Wing, whose conception of rebellion only extended to breaking anything they could. Historical perspective and future possibilities were swept aside in the rush to consume all the food and water within minutes. Harnessing a spontaneous outburst of anger and resentment into an organised rebellion failed in that moment.

Wrapping myself in my lifer-coat, now embedded with brick dust and glass, I kept wandering the roof. Unlike the others, wearing some sort of mask didn't cross my mind. Increasingly improbable and desperate plans floated through my head, the maddest being to manufacture an escape. To wrap myself in a mattress, tie myself to a length of rope, anchor that on the roof and to take a running dive for the wall. In my mind, I would clear the top and the mattress would cushion me when I swung and smashed against the outside. That the road was jammed with the police saved me from even attempting that insane trick.

The riot was lost, as are all ultimately. While prisoners can take physical possession for a while, staff reinforcements mean that any physical battle will be inevitably lost. Rebellions have their power in their political resonance, rather than their physical reality. The wing dispensary was emptied and people stood on the roof swapping bottles of liquid and packets of pills. "What are these?" Don't know... "I'll take a handful, and then we'll see..." One man, Jimmy the Ponce, insensible through drinking a bottle of chloral hydrate, was taken inside and laid on a mattress, unconscious. We shouted to the nearest screw that we had a man needing medical attention; assuming that there was some way to pass him to safety.
The screw lifted his visor and looked up at us, crowded around the barred window. "We'll pick him up when we come in..." His look made it plain that he meant, don't worry, we'll pick him up when we launch our counter-assault. All Jimmy remembers is waking up three days later in a prison two hundred miles away.

This was not an organised rebellion in any sense. It was an incoherent outpouring of resentment and bitterness. Once the breakable elements of the prison had been fractured and the medicine cabinet consumed then a steady stream made their way to the screws lines. They were searched, cuffed and bundled away to other prisons. The point of origin, A Wing, was internally destroyed and uninhabitable. C and B Wings were riddled with holes, but largely useable.

What to hold out for? There was no agenda. There wasn't even a group with whom to discuss an agenda. Having exhausted the entertainment possibilities of wandering the roof and observing the activities of the police and screws, I settled down in the water-bunker. A hot water pipe threaded around its inside and I found a warm corner in which to doze, excited voices still babbling around me.

Bastards. The screws cut the power and water, leaving me freezing. It was about 4 a.m., damp and flat. Fuck it. A staunch rebellious siege was the last thought of those around me; I went back to bed and slept for a few hours on a pile of blankets, brick dust and glass.

"Advance!". As a wake-up call, the sound of the riot squad making their way along the landing isn't the most comforting. My tension was ratcheted up by my cell being right at the end of a long spur. The Mufti moved along one cell at a time, noting which was empty, which occupied, which damaged.

They reached my door. The long flap over the observation slit flew upwards and a shield was rammed against the door. Eyes met mine through three layers of Perspex - his visor, his shield, the spy-hole... "Cell insecure! Cell insecure!" Bugger, he'd noticed the hole, the rubble... "Stand up and face the window"; I was ordered to have my back to the door, put my hands behind me head. They unlocked and charged in an instant, a shield at my back and a screw gripping each arm, twisting them into joint locks. I was surprised that they were holding the locks quite loosely; I expected full-on pain control.

I was walked across the way and dumped in a secure cell, to the surprise of the occupier who had made every effort to avoid involvement in this whole episode. We were locked-down for 24 hours before being fed. Still feeling the rebellious quiver, I assumed that the Institution had taken the point and would stop treating us with disregard; a key traditional indicator of this being food. So it was a surprise to be marched down in threes to the hotplate, passing groups of screws still in riot gear, to be served corned beef, mash and beans. My natural urge to complain was muffled by the fact that the screw serving it was wearing his crash helmet and wielded both a ladle and a riot stave. One of the more surreal meals I've enjoyed.

There were consequences to the riot, though to be fair to the screws these were legal rather than physical. I was swearing blind that I hadn't left my cell, that the hole was made by people from another wing. It seems they smashed in to free me, but I refused to take part... I did this without a blush, and in the knowledge that I had been the only one on the roof without a mask. Half the city must have seen me that night.

This scheme had some success, in that I was charged under the internal disciplinary rules rather than charged with a criminal offence. I was surely guilty: a hole in my wall, a pile of bricks on my floor... But I was saved by a screw. Screws have a natural instinct to over-egg any situation, but particularly disciplinary hearings. This one read his evidence, claiming that there "were tool marks in the plaster" of my cell wall. Interesting; my solicitor noted that cell walls were merely painted brick. The adjudicators - the then BoV - trooped to my cell, to return and find me not guilty. Thanks to that verdict, to this day I had no official involvement in the riot.

Ten years on, and I was on the same wing in the same prison, looking up at the gated hatch in the roof. I turned to the screw sitting on the landing and jabbed, "It's been a while since I've seen up in there...". He squirmed in his seat, memories slowly returning to his fat-soaked brain. He squealed. "You were up there in the riot, I saw you on the roof!!!" Walking away I said, "Pity you weren’t here on the day I was tried then..."
Original is here

See also Strangeways 20 years ago

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Sentence Inflation

Now we are into the general election campaign expect politicians from all parties to talk tough on crime.  One result of this is an auction where both parties bid against each other for who can propose the longest prison sentences.  The rising prison population we have experienced in recent years is the result of more severe sentences.

In the USA it has gone far further with one man being sentenced this week to three life sentences and an additional 720 years.  I am sure someone somewhere thinks this is soft and should have been at least 750 years!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Shocking Video from Iraq

Shows the killing of a Reuters photographer, his driver and ten other civilians in July 2007.

This has been published by Wikileaks after having been leaked to them from someone within the US Military.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Transform Drug Policy Foundation Scotland

I met Katrina and Jolene when they visted Bristol in late 2008.  Both are a real inspiration.

From the Herald

Beyond the law

‘I was still at school when I had to tell my parents, ‘I think Alan is on drugs’.

After that I was always breaking terrible news: he’s been arrested; he’s in prison; he’s dead.”
Schoolteacher Katrina Robertson, now 28, lost her heroin-addicted brother Alan in a drug-related stabbing two years ago last week – March 17, 2008. He was killed as he stepped in to protect a flatmate caught up in a scuffle at the entrance of a block of flats in Glasgow’s Shawlands.
Katrina and her cousin, Jolene Crawford, didn’t respond by calling for crackdowns on the social menace of drugs, or demanding that dealers be strung up – Alan himself was a minor dealer.
Instead, they launched Transform Drug Policy Foundation Scotland (TDPFS), a thinktank calling for a wholesale review of drug laws, including an end to the blanket prohibition of heroin. They would like to see the drug available on prescription, and argue that removing the criminality from drugs would cut much of the damage they cause. Neither do they support the banning of “legal highs” such as mephedrone.

“We are the least likely drug reform campaigners, a mother and a teacher,” says Katrina. “But Alan had used heroin for 12 years and stayed alive and relatively healthy … I am convinced he was killed not by the drug, but because of the society he was involved in.”

TDPFS was launched last autumn, and has the backing of heavyweight supporters from across Scottish society (see panel). Jolene and Katrina have never spoken before about the personal tragedy which led to their conversion from ashamed relatives who did everything they could to conceal Alan’s addiction, into campaigners who believe Scotland needs to change the way society deals with drug addiction. But now, two years after Alan’s murder, they are telling their story in the hope of provoking a public debate which they say politicians are unable or unwilling to confront. Katrina says she watched her brother slide from a happy, able boy growing up in Aberdeen, to an addict sleeping rough and ending up in prison in 2004. His death didn’t come as a surprise, but the manner of it shocked her: “I felt like I’d lost Alan to heroin years ago, but I’d been waiting for him to come back.”

They were pupils at Aberdeen Grammar School when it began. She says many children their age were experimenting with drugs. Katrina and Jolene describe Alan as a “charmer” who once boasted: “I’m the best looking boy in Aberdeen.”
“He was a bad boy,” Katrina says. “Girls loved him and boys wanted to be him. But he lacked confidence and he struggled at school. We think he may have been dyslexic.” She and their elder brother, Neil, found out he was smoking heroin. “Money went missing, mum’s bank card, piggy banks. I found a shoebox full of ‘makings’ under his bed. There was a pen with no ink or lid, several clipper lighters and some foil with funny stains on it.” Alan was still living at home with his siblings and his mum. Their parents had separated but his dad was involved with the family and later paid for Alan to go to rehab – unsuccessfully.

Katrina watched as Alan became two people – the brother she knew and a darker figure who gradually took over: “He could be charming polite and well-mannered, but then there was ‘street’ Alan whose phone was constantly going and he would speak tersely, making arrangements to meet people. The longer the drug use went on the more the Alan I knew was being eroded and taken over.” His drug use landed Alan in Aberdeen’s Craiginches prison for a short sentence. By the time he came out, Katrina was in Glasgow, about to begin a teacher training course. “He came with me to enrol. He was excited for me and I could tell he was sad about what he was missing out on,” she says. “Because of his record, the kind of jobs he could go for were not jobs he wanted to do.”

While he was in jail, she had received phonecalls telling her to deliver money to people, otherwise he would be hurt. Desperate, she did so – feeling vulnerable sitting outside dodgy Glasgow flats in her conspicuous blue VW beetle. After prison Alan stayed with his sister for a year. He had come out clean, but rapidly slipped back to his secret life.
“When I was in third year he turned up at my door bleeding and badly beaten. He said he had been attacked by two Liverpudlians with golf clubs and he had to give them £200 or they would kill him.” At the age of 19, Katrina was as tortured by his addiction as he was, and also hiding much of what was going on from her mother.

She says: “I was worried and feeling sick all the time, but at the same time just wanted to say, ‘Get out of my face, let me get on with my life’.
“I used to blame Alan, but it is the current system that put me in that situation. We felt ashamed as a family … but it wasn’t our fault. Why should people feel like that?” In the year or two before Alan died he had shown signs of getting his life back on track. Having started out smoking heroin, he had moved to injecting, but was back to smoking it again. His life appeared calmer and his addiction at least under control. He was living with another heroin user and petty dealer in Shawlands. They looked after each other. One night when his flatmate went out only his dog came back. “Alan would have thought ‘where is he?’,” Katrina says. “He went down and found his friend was being attacked. He had been stabbed dozens of times. Alan stepped in to try to save his friend from being murdered and was stabbed twice. He was killed by one unlucky stab wound to the heart.” Alan’s friend survived. The attacker, Ian Hislop, was sentenced to life in December 2008. Katrina adds: “Alan was a heroin user and a low-level dealer, so was his flatmate, so was the man who killed him. We don’t know, but I would guess somebody owed money to somebody. There were no drugs or weapons on Alan or in the flat.”

Desolate after Alan’s death, the pair felt they should do something. They thought about campaigning for more rehabilitation facilities, but the more they looked at the evidence the more they became convinced that drug policies are based on a lie. But their views are rejected by some people, including Professor Neil McKeganey, of Glasgow University’s Centre for Drug Misuse Research. He insists the suggestion that decriminalising drugs would improve the situation is “rose-coloured politics” and claims there is no strong evidence that criminalisation is harmful. “Take mephedrone – that will not become more harmful if it is made illegal. It will be made illegal because we’re increasingly aware of its harmful consequences.” Jolene is emphatic that the reverse is true. It is prohibitionists, she believes, who have no evidence for the success of current policies, while there are convincing grounds both that current policy is failing and that other approaches work better.

“We don’t want to tell people what to think, we want an open debate,” she says. “We are so confident people would see the evidence is there in black and white.” TDPFS highlights evidence such as that from Portugal, the first European country to abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of any drugs. Since 2001, addicts have been offered treatment and therapy instead of jail time. The number of teenagers using illegal drugs has declined, rates of new HIV infections have fallen and the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction has more than doubled.
Studies have also backed the prescribing of heroin as effective in tackling drug addiction, leading to Aberdeen City Council social work chief Fred McBride recommending earlier this year that trials in the city be considered. A report commissioned by the Home Office in 2004 but never published concluded that the drug war was unwinnable and that moving from prohibition to regulation of currently illegal drugs should be an option. “The Home Office should consider wider rolling out of injectable heroin prescription for highly dependent users through the NHS,” the report said.

TDPFS argues that giving heroin to opiate-dependent people would help them become citizens again, while cutting the gangsters out of the drug market would avoid much of the criminal collateral damage. The billions of pounds currently devoted to prosecuting the drugs war could be invested in treatment. TDPFS has been backed by former policemen, bishops, addiction workers, authors and former politicians. But the women know it is hard for sitting politicians to speak out. Jolene says: “We know so many people agree but they are not putting their heads above the parapet. They fear the public will not support them, but we want to bypass the politicians and go straight to the public.”
“We are signed up to this for the rest of our lives,” Katrina adds. “People say you can’t change anything, but if everybody said that we would still be living in caves.”
Jolene adds: “Imagine what it would be like in Scotland if old ladies didn’t have to be scared of drug gangs, or getting mugged by a junkie. We could change all that by prescribing heroin."

Original story can be seen here

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Addiction: should we penalise or treat? A public debate

If you are near Bristol and fancy hearing me speak in person I will be taking part in this event next week

What: Addiction: should we penalise or treat? A public debate

When: Thursday 8 April 2010, 18:30-20:00
Where: Watershed, 1 Canon's Road, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 5TX
Addiction: should we penalise or treat? is the topical subject of a free public debate organised by University of the West of England philosopher, Dr Havi Carel. The event will take place on Thursday 8 April 2010 from 18:30 to 20:00 at the Watershed in Bristol.

The public debate is one of the events funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the three year research project - The Concepts of Health, Illness and Disease. Project leader, Dr Carel explains, “This research project brings together researchers from diverse disciplines to develop an understanding of health, illness and disease. This is crucial to society as how we define illness can have ethical, social and economic consequences. Addiction is an emotive topic that clearly highlights these issues. One example is smoking - should the NHS pay for the treatment of nicotine addiction or are smokers just weak-willed? By drawing on the expertise of a multidisciplinary team of speakers, the audience will hear multiple approaches to the issue before being invited to join in the debate.”

The speakers are:
  • Dr Nick Airey, an NHS psychiatrist specialising in addiction
  • Dr Piers Benn, Medical ethics
  • John Moore, Criminology, UWE
  • Dr Giles Pearson, Philosophy, University of Bristol
  • Dr Jonathan Webber, Philosophy, Cardiff University
  • Chair: Dr Julian Baggini, Editor of The Philosopher's Magazine

This event is free of charge to the public and a large audience is expected. This event is free of charge but booking is essential, to book a place e-mail Dr Havi Carel -

Dr Carel concludes, “The event has attracted interest from clinicians, drug and addiction practitioners, and service users. It promises to be a lively debate and is a chance for the public to contribute to our research. We are planning to record the debate as a podcast on the project website, as well as on the AHRC website and The Philosopher's Magazine website.”

CEOP Spam Scam

If you visit the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, the police agency that focuses on sexual abuse of children online, you will see this message:
We are aware that bogus emails have been sent purporting to be from the CEOP Centre asking the recipient to call a phone number to make a payment or book an appointment. This message is being sent from a bogus account – We advise any recipients to delete this message and not respond in any way to either the email address quoted or the telephone numbers provided. CEOP has no power to issue fine notices

We recommend you do not use any of the contact information or click on any of the links in the email and instead visit the official site
Essentially what they are reporting is a very clever scam. Instead of the normal 4-1-9 scam which is based on greed this one involves sending out tens of thousands of e-mails to random e-mail addresses informing them that they have been "caught" viewing pictures of child abuse and offering them the option of paying a fixed penalty fine rather than face prosecution. Most of those who recieve this e-mail will not have viewed such material but a significant minority may feel their guilty secret has been exposed. This group may well respond and pay up. If subsquently they find it is a scam they are hardly likely to report it.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Strangeways 20 years ago

Twenty years ago British prison's saw their most serious unrest.  Eric Allison looks back at them in an excellent article in the Guardian

For the prisoners, it was a justified protest against the appalling conditions in which they were being kept, and against the often brutal treatment handed out by their keepers. For the prison's governor, it was an "explosion of evil".

The Strangeways prison riot, which began 20 years ago tomorrow and lasted 25 days, under an unprecedented glare of media attention, left two men dead and 194 injured. It was followed by 51 criminal trials and a public inquiry that proved to be the most searching examination of penal policy in British history, and resulted in sweeping changes to the penal system. These included an end to "slopping out", whereby prisoners had to urinate and defecate in buckets in their cell; the appointment of a prisons ombudsman; and the introduction of telephones on landings so prisoners could keep in closer touch with their families.

But the Woolf inquiry into the riot also unearthed evidence – largely ignored by politicians and the media – indicating that it could and should have been avoided.
For the rest of this article click here

Update - The BBC has an excellent Audio Slideshow of their coverage of the riot/uprising - here