Nick Clegg

We should expect a major announcement about drug decriminalisation, we were reliably informed yesterday. What, we speculated, could the Deputy Prime Minister and his whacky minister for drugs be getting up to? While the cat’s away, the mice can come out to play.

Would he grab this opportunity to announce a royal commission behind the PM’s back? Would he seize the moment to fanfare and grandstand on Jeremy Browne’s world drugs policy fact finding tour that he’d bounced Theresa May into a while back? That everyone has forgotten about. The one where only countries with liberalised drug regimes were investigated; and ones with restrictive regimes avoided. The one that Julian Huppert MP assured the Oxford Union has converted his more conservative colleagues  to the wonders of Portugal (where kids’ drug use has doubled).

How would the deputy headmaster use his moment of freedom to advance the Liberals’ love affair with drugs?

Oh dear. Things did not go well. The major announcement we had been led to expect did not even make the Today programme.

At least The Sun obliged. “Don’t nick drug users”, the headline read. What an outrage – a thousand people are jailed each year for personal drug use, the horrified Clegg fumed. Is that all?

Indeed it is – so very few given the 200,000 odd ‘problem’ Class A drug users in the country and the hundreds of dealers who supply them. And all that before you count the thousands pushing cannabis on our kids.

A better Sun headline might have been how lax our so called punitive regime is in practice. No one is imprisoned for first time drug offences, possession or supply!

For that’s the true state of affairs. The answer to a parliamentary question by Nicola Blackwood MP provided the facts. Mr Clegg really should do his homework before spouting off.

Between 2007-10 the portion of first time drug offenders who got an immediate custodial sentence for class A possession and/or for supply was three per cent, for class B it was nought per cent and for class C 1.5 percent. I rest my case.

Any magistrate will tell you how hard it is to imprison the most intractable of drug offenders without other offences like grievous bodily harm as aggravating factors.

It seems that Nick Clegg’s new found patriotism on display at Westminster Abbey on Monday night was short lived. He should be ashamed of himself for accusing this country – one we can still be proud of – of unjustly imprisoning its citizens.

Not least when such very real crimes continue to be committed on the world stage.

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