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Jason Newman: Police raise white flag on festival drugs use; sex assaults spike


The long, cowardly surrender towards normalising drug taking has continued this summer, with a number of high profile festivals introducing drug testing tents that allow festivalgoers to test the purity of their substances. The tents are run by the not-for-profit company, “The Loop”, which states non-ironically that one of its goals is to provide “harm reduction services” at festivals and nightclubs.

These “harm reduction services” include facilitating individuals to inject, smoke, swallow and snort their illegal substances, safe in the knowledge that what they are consuming is pure and, thus, less dangerous than impure, high potency or counterfeit drugs. Less harmful in the same way jumping off a forty foot wall is less dangerous than jumping off a fifty foot wall.

Where the project has been piloted, the police have given full co-operation, often allowing testing to take place in their portacabins, before the drugs are then handed back to the drug user along with the results of the testing and the offer of drugs counselling (which I am sure has a huge uptake). The general vicinity around the testing facility is treated by the police as a “non-enforcement tolerance zone” where they will not arrest anybody in possession of illegal drugs.

Essentially, an area will exist whereby people are exempt from the law of the land and officers will stand idly by full well knowing a crime is being committed. Is there any other crime that is given such a free pass? Of course, the police say that they scan people for drugs coming into the festival and anybody caught will be dealt with, a laughable statement to anybody who has ever attended one of these events.

What sort of signal does allowing drugs to be produced openly within certain areas without fear of prosecution send to the public? The impression is given that, while technically it is still against the law, the police and authorities don’t really mind if you take these things. Moreover, these “tolerance zones” break one of the key underpinnings of the legal system – equality before the law.

If a person possess drugs in a location outside the “tolerance zone”, they will be reprimanded, yet if a person possess drugs within the “tolerance zone”, they will not. The policy privileges being in one geographical location over being in another, same person, same crime, but different results.

The move has been praised by those you would expect praise to come from as a “pragmatic solution.” The opinion is that ‘we know large numbers of people at festivals are going to be taking these substances, at least this way they can do it safely’. The idea that the number of people committing an offence should have an inverse relationship to how strictly that offence is policed is not just plainly moronic, but dangerous.

If 90 per cent of people steal cars, does it therefore mean they should be let off because there is a sizeable headcount? This intellectual gem comes from the same people who state the war on drugs is unwinnable, therefore it should not be fought. The war on murder, rape and theft is unwinnable in the sense that these offences will never be eradicated, yet I doubt many would favour surrendering these battles.

A disturbing trend has been developing right across the European festival circuit in recent years, there has been a substantial spike in sexual assaults. In the case of Sweden and Germany, it does not take Poirot to figure out why this is, but even in countries that have not seen a large, standalone influx of refugees, the figures have increased. Any proponent of this testing measure must answer a few straightforward questions. Is it more likely that the acceptance and tolerance of taking drugs at these festivals and the increase in consumption that is bound to follow will increase or decrease these sexual assault statistics?

In light of these increases, is it morally right to let young girls walk from these “tolerance zones” with substances that could very well leave them stupefied or without the ability to sense danger? Is the inhibition of reason, manners and decency that inevitably result from the consumption of these substances going to make an already aggressive (or indeed a usually reserved) male more or less likely to commit an assault sexual or otherwise?

The answers are clear yet will be ignored, because if they were heeded, this whole campaign for legalisation through the back door would have to be stopped.

(Image: Cristian C)

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Jason Newman
Jason Newman
Jason studies English and Politics at third level in Ireland.

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