Nutt Sacking: Johnson responds – and is still wrong

The Home Secretary has now responded to my letter. It is set out below, interwoven with my original letter, and accompanied by comments from me, after consultation with Professor Nutt and Richard Garside (of CCJS at King’s College)

This is still all in the aftermath to Professor Nutt’s sacking by the Home Secretary, and the Home Secretary’s subsequent Q&A sessions in the House of Commons.

Objection raised to Home Secretary

1.         You stated in the chamber: “In February, while awaiting publication of the Government’s position on the classification of ecstasy, of which he was already aware, Professor Nutt published an article and addressed the media on the appropriateness or otherwise of the Government’s policy framework, expressing a view that horse riding was more dangerous than ecstasy.”

This is incorrect. A peer-reviewed journal – the Journal of Psychopharmacology – published the article (not Professor Nutt). It was in January 2009, not February as you stated. Professor Nutt wrote and submitted the article the previous year. It was reviewed prior to publication by two expert reviewers. Neither at the time of writing, nor at the date of publication of the article, was Professor Nutt aware of the Government’s position on the classification of ecstasy since the ACMD had not even published its report let alone received the Government’s response. Furthermore the content of the article was discussed with the ACMD secretariat (though he was not required by the Code of Practice to do so) and was discussed and approved in a conversation with Professor Nutt by Paul Wiles the Departmental Chief Science Advisor.

Response from Home Secretary

1. In relation to the publication of Professor Nutt’s paper in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. This was published by the journal but was authored solely by Professor Nutt. I accept that the journal may have been published in January, although its publication did not come to our attention until the beginning of February.

The paper was discussed with the ACMD secretariat and Professor Paul Wiles, Home Office Chief Scientific Advisor. However, neither the secretariat nor Professor Wiles approved the paper. It is not the role of the Chief Scientific Advisor of the Home Office, or indeed the ACMD secretariat to approve, or otherwise, the academic papers produced by independent academics.

Comment:

Home Secretary admits he had the date of publication wrong but does not address the consequential point that he was wrong to tell the House that Prof Nutt was aware of the Government’s response to the ACMD report on Ecstasy. Prof Nutt submitted his paper in November 2008, it was published in January (without press release, comment or fanfare), while the ACMD report was sent to the Government on 4th February and the Government’s response received on the 11th February, the same day as the report itself was published.

The Home Secretary is correct to say that there is no need for the Home Office CSA or the ACMD secretariat to approve (or in fact even be notified) of academic papers produced by independent academics. This concedes that this was a not a paper produced by Prof Nutt in his capacity as Chair of ACMD but in his capacity as an academic.  There can be no valid objection to the publication of the paper itself. The objection by the Home Secretary and his predecessor can only have been on its content – which is a matter of academic freedom.

Conclusion:

a) The House was misled on the question of dates and of the knowledge of Prof Nutt of the Government’s response.

b) Prof Nutt’s academic freedom has been impinged by two Home Secretaries

Objection raised to Home Secretary

2.         You stated in the chamber: “On Thursday 29th October Professor Nutt chose, without prior notification to my Department, to initiate a debate on drugs policy in the national media, returning to the February decisions and accusing my predecessor of distorting and devaluing scientific research”.

This is incorrect, as Richard Garside, Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London has made clear. Professor Nutt delivered his lecture at King’s on 14th July 2009 to an audience of 150 people with no media. This was published by the CCJS on 29th October. As you know, there is no requirement on an independent scientific adviser to give prior notification of academic work to the ACMD secretariat in the Home Office in either the general or the ACMD code of practice. Nevertheless, Professor Nutt had indeed informed the secretariat of the paper and received feedback. Prof Nutt even discussed it with Paul Wiles, the Home Office Departmental Chief Scientific Adviser. In fact the Home Office publicised it in advance on their website here:

http://www.crimereduction.homeoffice.gov.uk/events/show_event.htm?event_id=170&view_type=list&current_page=1&monthID=0&yearID=0

The official flyer for the event described Prof Nutt as Professor David Nutt, Edmond J Safra Chair in Neuropsychopharmacology and Head of the Department of Neuropsychopharmacology and Molecular Imaging at Imperial College London. It was only the Home Office advert that also described him as Chair of the ACMD.

Prof Nutt would not, of course, be banned from accusing Jacqui Smith of “distorting and devaluing scientific research” under the ACMD code of practice , but he did not. There are no references to Ms Smith in his lecture and only 3 to the “former Home Secretary” which are factual. The reference to “distorting” and “devaluing” in the lecture clearly refers to the use of the precautionary principle.

Response from Home Secretary

2. Regarding Professor Nutt’s paper at King’s College. Professor Nutt made the ACMD Secretariat and Professor Wiles aware of the presentation he made on 14 July and saw the slides that were to be used for the presentation. However, neither the secretariat nor Professor Wiles were made aware of the subsequent publication on 29 October, authored by Professor Nutt. Similarly, we were not aware of the article Professor Nutt wrote in the Guardian the following day (published on-line on 29 October).

You state that the official flyer for the event described Professor Nutt in his role at Imperial College. However, the website advertising the lecture also referred to Professor Nutt chairing the ACMD. Furthermore, David Nutt’s presentation, clearly used information that was part of his role in Chairing the ACMD and he referred to the Council as ‘we’ repeatedly during the presentation. Therefore, the impression could easily be given that Professor Nutt was speaking in his capacity of Chair of the ACMD, regardless of how the lecture was advertised.

Your letter states there were no references to Ms Smith in Professor Nutt’s lecture, but three references to the ‘former Home Secretary’. This is true, although Professor Nutt did refer to the former Home Secretary, alongside quotes from Jacqui Smith in the paper, so it is clear to whom he is referring. In addition, Professor Nutt’s Guardian article and Press Release for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies paper both mention Jacqui Smith by name. These criticise her stance on cannabis being to ‘err on the side of caution’. This is the explanation of why the Government rejected the ACMD’s advice on cannabis, in that it is not prepared to risk the health of our young people. Professor Nutt’s paper, on page 8, criticises this stance as to ‘devalue the evidence’.  I completely refute the fact that erring on the side of caution to protect the health of our young people in anyway devalues or distorts the evidence – we make decisions in the full confidence that they will protect the public.

Comment:

The Slides for the presentation on the 14th July were actually prepared with the ACMD secretariat.

The paper published on 29th October was a translation of the transcript of the lecture, attended by the ACMD secretariat (Will Reynolds and Ian Williams), with some of the slides used as illustrations. It was published on 29th October by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies as is usual with this lecture series and press release was produced by them. It is not required by the Code of Practice for Prof Nutt to provide prior notification or approval of the Home Office for papers produced by others based on a lecture itself notified to the Home Office and produced with their assistance.

If a “debate on drugs policy was initiated” by Professor Nutt, it was initiated in his lecture on 14th July not by the publication by a third party of that lecture three months later.

The article in the Guardian was – as it states – an edited version of the paper which is in turn based on the transcript of the lecture.

Prof Nutt was described in the flyer for the lecture and in the paper as  Edmond J Safra Chair in Neuropsychopharmacology and Head of the Department of Neuropsychopharmacology and Molecular Imaging at Imperial College London. Any reference to his chairing the ACMD was biographical. This role was prominent only in the Home Office’s own advert – a point not addressed by the Home Secretary.

Richard Garside (Director of the CCJS at King’s College) says:

“We were very clear in (1) the original event flyer and material; (2) the press release; and (3) the published version of the speech that Professor Nutt was contributing in his academic capacity. It is as simple as that. The reference to Professor Nutt’s ACMD role were biographical and contextual on the website page the Home Secretary refers to (I assume it is http://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/evesavillelecture.html ). There was a similar biographical reference in the notes to editors in the press release. It is therefore simply false to claim that the impression was ‘easily given’ that he was speaking in his capacity as ACMD chair.

We also went to lengths on the day of publication to ensure that David Nutt was not interpreted as speaking for the ACMD. The Guardian article, for instance, was edited down from David’s briefing by Matt Seaton, the Comment Editor. I signed it off on behalf of David. In the original draft that Matt did, the second paragraph started: ‘The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), on which I serve, was requested by the Home Secretary…’. I asked Matt to remove ‘on which I serve’ to avoid misunderstanding about the capacity in which David was writing. Likewise in the third para from the end, a reference to an ACMD report that Matt described as ‘our report’ was corrected to ‘the ACMD’s report’.

We therefore went to some lengths to be clear about the capacity in which David was speaking and writing. It might be possible for individuals to conclude that he was speaking in his ACMD role. CCJS and David Nutt can’t be held responsible for others misinterpreting what we published or David Nutt spoke or wrote.”

In the paper and in the lecture, the use of “we” in respect of the ACMD was only in relation to factual matters about the work that the ACMD had carried out; the rest of lecture set out his own views or those of his co-authors of the Lancet paper. Any perusal of the Paper or viewing of the slides will not provide support for the idea that Prof Nutt was speaking in his role as Chair of the ACMD.

By the Home Secretary’s standards a member of the ACMD will always be speaking in their ACMD role, when they speak on matters relating to illegal drugs and their classification.

The Home Secretary enters a debate about the value of erring on the side of caution which is of academic interest but of no relevance as to whether Prof Nutt is entitled to criticise what he considers to be an over-precautionary approach. In his paper Prof Nutt does criticise indirectly the previous Home Secretary’s approach, and the press release from CCJS which summaruises the paper, criticises that approach more directly. Neither accuses the previous Home Secretary of “distorting and devaluing scientific research”. The Home Secretary admits that the most the paper does (on page 8 ) is to criticise the stance adopted by the Home Secretary as to “devalue the evidence”.

Conclusions

a. Prof Nutt did not speak at the CCJS lecture as Chair of the ACMD, nor did he advertise himself as so doing, or give that impression. Therefore he was under no obligation to notify the Home Office – although he did.

b. Contrary to what the Home Secretary told the House, Prof Nutt did provide prior notification to the Home Office of his paper even though he was under no obligation to do so.

c. Prof Nutt was entitled to criticise the former Home Secretary of “distorting and devaluing scientific research” as the Home Secretary accused him of doing, if he wished to do so, but in fact his criticism was that her policy served to “devalue the evidence”.  So the House was misled by the Home Secretary on this point.

Objection raised to Home Secretary

3. You stated that the former Home Secretary – Jacqui Smith- had protested to Professor Nutt concerning the comparison in the Journal of Psychopharmacology article of the risks of ecstasy with the risks of horse-riding. You then went on: “In relation to the latest event, that behaviour has happened again. Professor Nutt is a man whom I respect, and he is very learned in his field, but, much to my regret, he published a paper without any notification to my Department, contrary to the code of practice under which he was appointed”.

This is incorrect. There was no evidence at the time or now that any of those events involved a breach of the Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees or the ACMD by Prof Nutt, and this is reinforced by the fact that neither Home Secretary in either of their letters to him has made this allegation, and nor did you raise it in your recent and only meeting with Prof Nutt. Yet if this allegation were made outside the House, it would be actionable given the slur on Professor Nutt’s reputation.

Response from Home Secretary

3. I refer to my answer to the point above with regard to publishing both the King’s College, paper and the Guardian article. You state that this did not breach the ACMD’s Code of Practice. Can I refer you to paragraph 48 of the ACMD’s  Code, which states, ‘Any media appearances that members have been asked to undertake on behalf of the ACMD, or which specifically cover the work of the ACMD should be reported beforehand to the Secretariat.

Comment

It is very clear from David Nutt’s paper and his media interviews on 29th and 30th October that he was not undertaking media appearances ‘on behalf of the ACMD’ nor were his media appearances ‘specifically’ to ‘cover the work of the ACMD’. He was undertaking media appearances to present his thinking, first set out in a presentation the Home Office helped to produce and indicated it had no problem with, to a wider audience, as an independent academic.

Conclusion

a. There was prior notification of the paper based on the lecture that the Home Office helped to prepare and House was misled.

b. There was no breach of the Code of Practice and the House was misled

Objection raised to Home Secretary

4. You stated: “Our principal advisers—whether Sir David King, John Beddington, Sir Liam Donaldson or Professor Nutt—have to be clear that when they are appointed to such a crucial and privileged job—When such esteemed professionals take on such a job, they have the Government’s ear. They have a very important role in influencing the Government, and they must exercise it with care and caution. It would be quite wrong for advisers to undermine the Government as well as advise them.”

Professor Nutt is not a full-time Government or Departmental Chief Science Adviser within the civil service, but an unpaid part-time adviser paid as an academic. You confuse the two roles. Nor has Prof Nutt campaigned against Government policy. One academic paper and one lecture in one’s area of expertise do not constitute a campaign, especially as both the paper and the lecture were notified to the ACMD secretariat and beyond in the Home Office and the content discussed and approved.

Response from Home Secretary

4. In your letter you accuse me of confusing roles.  I am in no way confused about the role Professor Nutt held.  He was chair of my advisory committee and chose to campaign against decisions my predecessor had taken, not just through a lecture and a paper but through a series of media appearances, an article and a press release.  Although, as stated above, the lecture was notified to the secretariat in June, the paper and the Guardian article in October were not.

Comment

The Home Secretary does not explain why he compared Prof Nutt’s role as an unpaid independent scientific adviser to that of paid civil servants working for the Government.

The Home Secretary considers that a lecture (prepared with the help of Home Office staff) and a paper based on it, advertised as being in an academic role, together with a press article on the same subject and a third party press release summarising the same represents a campaign.

Conclusion

On this basis the Home Secretary would consider any academic lecture or paper which disagreed with Government policy and was reported in the media to be a campaign against policy decisions and seeking to undermine the Government. This is paranoid control freakery.

Objection raised to Home Secretary

5. You stated: My final point is about what Professor Nutt did last week at King’s college; incidentally, he was opposed by Professor Robin Murray, the head of psychiatric research, who takes a completely different view.”

This is incorrect. As we saw above, the King’s College event was four months ago not last week. Professor Robin Murray was not there.

Response from Home Secretary

5. Professor Robin Murray did, indeed, oppose Professor Nutt’s comments. These were made in the Guardian on 30 October and Professor Murray does take a different view on cannabis to Professor Nutt.

Comment

The Home Secretary does not deal the error he made I talking about an event at King’s College “last week”, when the lecture took place in July. He does not admit he was wrong to suggest that Prof Murray was present at the lecture speaking against Prof Nutt.

Conclusion

The House was misled.


Overall conclusions

There is no good evidence or argument that Prof Nutt breached the Code of Practice and indeed there are good grounds for recognising that he went to considerable lengths – beyond those required – to inform the Home Office at a senior level of his paper and his lecture, and to make clear the capacity in which he was speaking or writing.

He was therefore unfairly treated by being accused of breaches of the code and of “campaigning” and therefore unfairly dismissed.

The Home Secretary then compounded this by making misleading or wrong statements in Parliament and not correcting the record when these were pointed out to him.

Prepared by Dr Evan Harris MP in consultation with Prof D. Nutt and Mr R. Garside

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52 Responses to “Nutt Sacking: Johnson responds – and is still wrong”

  1. Hrothgir Ó Dómhnaill Says:

    http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/2009/11/10/johnsons-flavour-of-the-month-leaves-bad-taste/

    This may interest the Honourable Gentleman.

  2. Steve Anderson Says:

    Please, please, please keep on at Alan Johnson. I find it hard to believe how much doublespeak our esteemed home secretary can use…

  3. Dr Stuart Taylor, Oxford Says:

    Dr Harris, I am delighted I voted for you at the last election and you can be sure I shall do so again.

    Please, please keep up the pressure. You are doing an excellent job!

  4. twaza Says:

    Dr Harris

    Thanks for this devastating forensic analysis, but I fear that the home secretary has an infinite capacity for disingenuous evasion.

  5. enhughesiasm Says:

    Incredibly good work Dr Harris.

    I’m glad someone is attempting to stick to the facts.

  6. quietzapple Says:

    You’re too crackers to be worth reading.

    You may yet see how much more dangerous Marijhuana high teens are in their cars than those crazies killing themselves on a less carcinogenic weed.

    Let’s hope not.

  7. Charlie Wilson Says:

    I do like that you’re my MP.

    Let’s keep on at him, please. Johnson comes across as so pleasant in his media appearances, but he is flat out wrong here and he needs to know it.

  8. Anthony Garrett Says:

    You are absolutely on the ball – so good to hear a politician speaking so much sense.

    Love the measured tone and followed by suggestion of “paranoid control freakery”.

    @quitzapple. Boy! You have managed to pack an awful lot of factual errors into a short message.

    Driving while intoxicated is a separate offence from possession of cannabis. If you take the relative harms of legal alcohol make everything less harmful legal too (not something that is currently proposed), even then, driving under the influence of cannabis would be an offence.

    Your tone suggests that you entirely disagree with using scientific evidence to ground policy in reality.

    The subject under discussion here doesn’t relate to your points at all. Did the Home Secretary mislead the House? Clearly he did (that’s my opinion anyway). That has absolutely nothing to do with any disagreement over policy or even whether Prof. Nutt’s sacking was reasonable.

  9. jdc325 Says:

    Great stuff, Dr Harris – thank you for posting this.

    Alan Johnson is in a bit of a hole, but just seems to be determined to keep on digging.

    If he admits to misleading the house, he may be viewed by his party as an embarrassment – but I don’t see what else he can do. He certainly can’t substantiate his comments to the house.

    Given the government’s dislike for being contradicted, their tendency to base policy decisions at least partly on expected newspaper outrage, and their position that they have “evidence-based policy”, this sort of situation was likely to happen sooner or later. I just didn’t expect it to be quite the spectacle it is turning out to be.

  10. Dr Stuart Taylor, Oxford Says:

    Hear Hear, Anthony Garrett!

    Well said

  11. Bernie R Says:

    On the basis of what I have seen here and what Dr Harris has said and done over the last few days, I have just become a paid-up member of the Liberal Democrats.

  12. Hrothgir Ó Dómhnaill Says:

    Well done, sir! You’ve almost given me faith in our elected representatives.

  13. quietzapple Says:

    Only a ragbag of sillies, tendentious anti HMG propagandists and druggies would bother pursuing such a line – oh and the Lib Dems Official …. – and how stupid is it to suggest that the real issue is not that Nutt acted to make the country less safe, Johnson to try and restore the situation, and you clowns are on the Nutt side.

    If the teenage boys, among whom most of those who post here must surely be numbered, would be more selective, if they have to cause accidents, as is inevitable, they should happen in your collective vicinities.

  14. Tom Says:

    quietzapple:

    Irrelevant and false points from you. Are you Alan Johnson? Because on the evidence above, he would make a stupendous internet troll.

  15. Dave Barton Says:

    I’m going to vote Lib Dem. And it’s entirely because of you.

  16. Mark Reed Says:

    not even wrong.

  17. John Galpin Says:

    Well done and an excellent response.

    The only problem I forsee is that it is far too erudite for the minister to comprehend.

  18. Paul Hibbert Says:

    Thank you Dr Harris for continuing to analyse the double-speak and plain nonsense spouted by Mr Johnson.

    However, your argument is based on a scientific approach, gathering evidence and basing your conclusion solely on that evidence. It is certain therefore that Mr Johnson will neither understand nor accept anything you say.

  19. quietzapple Says:

    According to their site the Committee had 31 members, and I believe that 5 have resigned and one has been sacked,

    They do not All have propaganda to make, nor are they all outraged as is commonly suggested.

    Pretty typical of the Lib-Dems, whose highest aspiration, from the precipice of electoral annihilation, is an imaginary cheap victory in the minds of wanna be libertine promos.

    • Bernie R Says:

      Hi Quietzapple,

      Many of the Committee members are employees of public bodies like the police, there is a judge, a schools inspector, it wouldn’t be appropriate for them to resign in these circumstances. That doesn’t mean they are content with the situation.

      You accuse Professor Nutt of making the country more dangerous. His job was to give the government the best available scientific advice about
      the dangers of drugs, for them to use when they are making legislation and policy. The government asked him to rank drugs according to their danger, so that legal sanctions and health advice could reflect their relative harm.

      He did a good job, the advice he gave and the rankings he came up with were sound, not reckless, not propaganda. It’s not just “ciphers”, these findings are widely based and are a pretty accurate reflection of reality, a good generalisation of people’s experience.

      So when they ignored his advice, the government made the country more dangerous. Their current policies and laws tend to encourage people to take the more dangerous option. The “messages” they send out are misleading.

      Do you want to be misled by your government?

  20. quietzapple Says:

    God help those who believe that Nutt and his ciphers are more important than kids on drugs.

    • Anthony Garrett Says:

      Not that this is about legalisation but has it occurred to you quietzapple that a controlled legal drug regime would be a vastly more effective method of preventing children from accessing drugs and separate our children from the dangerous criminals who currently control drug distribution?

      It is the Home Secretary who, in ignoring rationality, has condemned our children to those risks as well as needlessly criminalising some of them. Worse than that, his action (or inaction) exposes them to drugs that are uncontrolled and therefore potentially cut with anything the criminal distributor has to hand.

      If you cared about children rather than just wheeling them out as a political point scoring exercise you would actively support legalisation.

  21. H T Says:

    Came here via @bengoldacre’s tweet; as he said, “he speaks in pwn prose”. (This is a good thing, for those who may be wondering.)

    @quietzapple: “from the precipice of electoral annihilation…”

    Heh. Let’s wait and see, shall we? See you again here on June 1st 2010?

  22. Nick Rawle Says:

    @quietzapple: You’re really quite unusual in your tone and anger, aren’t you? Is the misuse of cannabis something that is close to your heart, or do you dislike people who can hold rational and well-informed discussions?

  23. Zeno Says:

    There you go again: using evidence and reasoned argument to support your assertions.

    Keep it up.

  24. Jon Says:

    I have to say this is a new experience, I have never written on an MP’s blog/ webpage etc. to thank them but I feel I have to.

    Well done Dr Harris MP. I sincerely hope that you will chase this issue.

    Again well done,
    Cheers Jon

  25. RossH Says:

    Well done Dr. and keep up the good work in identifying irrational, emotively charged, unfounded, beliefs and wrong headed assertions from ignorant and power motivated aparatchiks.
    It’s my belief (based on the evidence since Jacqui Smith’s , G Brown’s and Johnsons irrational approach) & and a healthy dose of the brilliant Armando Ianucci’s “The Thick of it!”, that this is all being spun by the Home Ofice machine for them to retain POWER and MONEY that would be much better spent by Health and Social Care Government offices rather than CRIMINAL Justice, Police Courts, Prisons and Offender Management agencies.
    But then I would say that, I worked for the NHS for 20 years trying to help people stop drinking when they eventually became dependent!
    Alcohol Industry Lobby anyone!
    Again Well done!
    This one has lots of legs still yet to run!

  26. lab rat Says:

    Superb – evidence-based politics!

  27. PSD Says:

    It matters not what Nutt’s views are on drugs, nor whether they back up one’s personal prejudices or set sail firmly against them. What is at stake here is an important principle – independent academics should be free, nay encouraged, to publish as widely as possible so that their methods, evidence and conclusions can be subjected to proper scrutiny. Without this, Mr Johnson, how do you propose that we judge the worth of the advice you receive?

    Bravo, Mr Harris!

  28. Neal Kemp Says:

    Simply brilliant Dr. Harris!

    Bravo, keep up the fantastic work!

  29. the northlondonhippy Says:

    I am right behind you Dr. Harris, you seem to be casting the sort of critical eye on this matter that the mainstream media is sorely lacking.

    Shouldn’t journalists be challenging the Home Secretary just as vigorously?

    Thank you Dr. Harris, please keep up the good work!

    - the northlondonhippy

  30. Steve Rolles Says:

    Bravo for exposing the shallowness of the Home secretaries lame post hoc justifications for what was transparently a political decision (albeit a spectacularly poor one in hindsight).

    I would however perhaps differ on the first point where you state that:

    “Neither at the time of writing, nor at the date of publication of the article, was Professor Nutt aware of the Government’s position on the classification of ecstasy since the ACMD had not even published its report let alone received the Government’s response.”

    The Government had in fact made its position on ecstasy perfectly (and somewhat contemptuously) clear in its evidence to the SciTech committee classification inquiry in 2006 (on which you sat). Vernon Coaker – under a rather excellent interrogation from you (and sitting next to Nutt) said he would not reclassify ecstasy whatever the ACMD recommended. Obnoxious as this pronouncement was, it was at least pretty clear.

    the relevant sections are reproduced at the end of this analysis of the Nutt Lancet paper:
    http://transform-drugs.blogspot.com/2007/03/lancet-and-drug-harms-missing-bigger.html

  31. Paul Nagle Says:

    Ah, our young people will be so much safer now that this decisive action has been taken.
    I love the phrase “err on the side of caution”. I imagine they used it when burning warty young girls at the stake once upon a time, just in case they were witches…

  32. Mark Reckons Says:

    Great stuff Evan. You have comprehensively demolished all his attempted rebuttals here. It will be interesting to see if he tries to come back on any of them.

  33. Simon H Says:

    What a fantastic piece of research. I hope to hear it in Parliament.

  34. Chris Long Says:

    Thankyou for this very well put together article/breakdown.

    It’s refreshing to see MP’s actually using common sense and showing that there are still some who are concerned by the current governments unrational behaviour.

    Johnson needs sacking, along with many of the other idiots he sits alongside. Lets hope this is the start of the snowball which will bring the bloomin lot tumbling down.

  35. David Evershed Says:

    Note to: Evan Harris

    Your letter to the Home Secretary and analysis of his response are forensic, measured and polite. Excellent work.

    You copied your original letter to the Speaker and I am sure he will be aware of the Home Secretary’s response and your analysis of the response, pointing out where the Home Secretary had misled the House.

    Clearly the Speaker should now call upon the Home Secretary to apologise to the House for the specific points where he misled the House.

    In the event that the Speaker does not call upon the Home Secretary to apologise, despite the evidence, will you support the local Buckingham Liberal Democrats in selecting a PPC to oppose the Speaker at the next general election? There are very many examples over the last 50 years where the Speaker has similarly been opposed by the Liberal and Labour parties.

  36. Chris White Says:

    Excellent!

  37. Ian Glossop Says:

    Gosh.

    Well done Dr. Harris. Well done, indeed.

    I hope you will be terrier-like in your persistence to hold the Home Secretary to account.

  38. Dale Cox Says:

    Dr Harris,

    Your letters to the Home Secretary have proved yourself to be a person of whom your constituents, myself and our party can continue to be proud.

    I feel foolish for believing that Alan Johnson would restore some integrity to the Home Office… Thank you Evan for ensuring that this increasingly iliberal government is held to account.

  39. robert Says:

    this should have it the press already. johnson was not within his rights to sack at all. he could not use the evidence to back the policy and he has no evidence to support the sacking under the rules.
    it was actually a political sacking, because we know there is certainly no law there to warrant it.

    nutt was sacked really because the government felt they were able to wrongly classify a drug and nutt pointed out that they were doing so.
    The ACMD should demand that sending a message does not weigh in on their recommendations for classifications because they are well aware that they will be sending the appropriate message.

    nutt was clearly speaking as an academic and the rules are clear that this is allowed.
    it should be noted that nutt mentioned the PAST home secretary so that should have no bearing on anything. talk about twisting things and double talk and exaggerating the real concerns.

    the government did err on the side of caution before, while this time there was no need. they were advised by the council as such and the reasons were provided.
    we have had a very large amount of cannabis studies over a long period of time. this one most recently. it was not at all insufficient from a scientific perspective.
    the governments precautionary stance was supposedly over the possible risks.
    the science ( study of papers and even the recent trends for schizophrenia) were pointed out in justifying a class c recommendation.
    so the risks that the government thought were there were proven not to be, by the very group that was supposed to find and assess the risk.
    the fear of the unknown was supposed to be the basis for the government moving cannabis to class B. claims by brown that the new forms where lethal were totally unfounded and untrue, in this it shows that the public was being misled and even the current facts or past science was not being spoken.
    that means he was conveying lies. lies which find their ways into the public debate.

    so after the science blew the need for a precautionary principle out of the water, the government had run out of reasons. so we get told a new type of reasoning, one that does not really make sense.
    the government are big and bold and strong enough to… “send a message”.
    AJ could do a lot better to make sure the message is appropriate and evidence based but he had nothing left. he should know that a message should be the contents, not that the “message” needs to be sent.

    Strangely the result now is that the message includes that the drug is comparatively more dangerous than all the work/evidence shows.
    for starters, classes and the alloted penalties are supposed to be deterrents. classes are supposed to reflect harm and never should upgrading to a higher class be used under to further deter.
    otherwise they could (and it seems they did) place any drug they choose to in the incorrect category.
    this will result in a policy that does not work correctly.
    it is the role of the ACMD to look at the effects of policy.
    class C was decided to be most appropriate.

    what happens is that by allocating cannabis to class B, and having such harsh penalty and stigma, you force the more easily deterred out of the distribution and then those that are not so easily deterred will deal in it, these are those people that also deal with the harder drugs and other crime. so you now have a comparatively less harmful drug associated with the more harmful in the black market dealers. your policy is then creating a gateway to harder drugs because they wanted people not to use this less harmful drug.

    this current policy aims to harm anyone associated with the drug just to send a message of “NO” to the smaller number of people that are likley to have problems. not only that but you are also harming those very people you are trying to help with penalty and possibly job loss or loss of career opportunity and family problems etc.
    you spend too much money on those that are not the problem user and not enough money on the health of those that are actually adversely effected.
    currently treatment is taken as an option over prison. this leads to people being in treatment that probably do not actually need the money spent on them. Nutt as a physcologist is aware that treatment is the most effective and the most cost effective, it is no wonder that he is not in favour of an incorrect, unjust and unfair and wasteful policy.
    the waste of money on enforcement for this message that is lost on the users as it is anyway is ridiculous. health gets a small part of the pie.
    this is also probably where nutt was coming from with his statement about needing to stop 5000 people at that age group from ever using.

    the government had decided to change cannabis to class B during the election even prior to the ACMD recommendation.
    this clearly goes against what the ACMD is set up for.
    it should be made clear that the government had decided before the advice and did not wish to go back on their election promise even after the council advised them this was the appropriate classification.
    this is an abuse of the system as it goes the wrong way about things.

  40. quietzapple Says:

    HMG moving cannabis between B & C has been on advice.

    Nutt’s propaganda (who says that propaganda cannot be waged in a lecture hall) will have led to more kids using dope; a friend’s son quotes Nutt and there will be at least hundreds of thousands more. Another lost her mother to a drug abusing car driver.

    This thread is a disgrace, and if its progenitor had any decency he would close it down.

    Free speech may well permit the libertine, but doesn’t justify every anti social utterance.

    • Paul Nagle Says:

      Heyup zapple! :)

      People take drugs. They always have and always will regardless of your approval – so get over it! What is at issue here is harm reduction and how best to achieve it. It seems to me that the only people still advocating prohibition are right-wing MPs, drug dealers and the Daily Mail. Which are you?

  41. robert Says:

    moving between B and C has been on advice of whom may i ask? once again we see that the advice was to place it in the lower grade but they did not.
    are you talking about the advise being such that they decided to err on the side of caution? or the reefer madness advice?
    who advised brown that potent pot was lethal? who advised that skunk would increase schizoprenia? did they have any evidence to back this advice?

    and most importantly, where is the evidence that doing so would decrease the harms?
    i dont think there is any evidence that this policy decreases harms.
    find me some and i will show you were you are wrong. i can point you to millions of people that are harmed by this policy. how many can you point me to that are harmed by pot? how many drivers ( pot only) have crashed cars whilst being stoned and not just having traces of pot in their system for three weeks after being high and yet being drunk at the time of arrest anyway.

    WHO IS BEHIND POT BEING ILLEGAL?
    go back 70 odd years and find out the reasons why it was made illegal.
    it was racism.. you know.. jazz musicians used to smoke the stuff and play their devil music. white women used to smoke and it and make them want to sleep with black people.. then there was the mexicans.
    for nixon it was the JEWS. he too commisioned a study and did not dare publish the results because they found that it should not be seen as a crime.
    we have the ledaine commison, the 2002 canadian senate report and the wooton report.
    all of them found that punishment for cannabis use was the wrong way to go.
    who are the people that thought it was terribly dangerous?
    politicians? or police that would be set to lose major funding if it became legal..people like the industrial prison complex, like the legal system that uses tax money to prosecute and while doing so waste people money on lawyers? what about the tobacco companies and the breweries?

    when you get together and tell the population lies about a drug they vote that way, and its with their money.

    cannabis is never lethal. in fact even a top DEA judge did a study and found that it was one of the most non toxic drugs around. the cancer links where disproven by the most complete study by Dr Tashkin, then we are still subject to more rubbish that it can lead to heart attacks because it can raise the heart beat. like exercise and caffeine. you have been misled by one of the biggest ongoing propaganda campaign there is.
    who is harmed by this kind of policy?
    families that have their parents taken from them, or kids who have their mother taken from them and placed in state care. people that are shot by cops over drugs or shot by other dealers over money or drugs or turf.
    or innocent people that are shot when the police get the wrong address in no knock raids. thousands are killed on the streets because drugs are illegal and not regulated like alcohol. do you know what is happeing in mexico? they say 70 percent of black market gets their money from pot sales. that is being illegal.
    they want it to remain illegal. do we want them to remain for another 50 years and pay for us to wage a never ending war on them? one that can not be won.
    every week it seems we hear how police or customs took out another drug ring and confiscated x amount of drugs BUT it is there again next week.
    they are not success stories but for that week.

    what about us in afhganistan or any of the other major black market playing countries? people are being harmed, not by drugs but because the drugs are illegal. you are well on your way to the USA type system where record numbers are in jail. record crime.ill tell you what happens if you are not yet aware. people that take drugs need to finance it. they steal and they recruit dealers and they push drugs more effectively to your children than what your children would be able to access if it was regulated.

    now how many died from pot or ecstasy?
    about ten by ecstasy and even then some overdoses where from the drugs having other substances in them that kill. another harm caused by putting the drugs under control of back yard operators.

    do not beleive all you hear on the news because they do not know.
    we need the scientists to sort through this and tell us the truth but apparently no body is telling us how much this all costs and that the money is not going into treatment as it is needed.

    so how is it at all propaganda? propaganda is rumors that are deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
    you have to be kidding. you really have to tell me how someone is harming people by telling them the truth about which drugs are worse than others.
    america spent 14 million on anti pot ads, then 43 million to see if the adds actually helped reduce pot use in teens. they found that the veiwers were more likley to use the drug than before exposed to the ad. what happened then? did they produce the results of the 43 million study to the public that paid for it with taxes? NO they did not. they kept putting out ads.

    i dont think there is anyone that has honestly looked at the evidence of drug harms and called nutt a liar. what they say is he is right on the money.
    the others believe what they first beleived in or read in the papers or saw on tv or they are too busy raising a glass and drinking to those being prosecuted for a less harmful substance,
    it may be more likley that because alcohol and tobacco is legal that you believe the government that these legal ones are safer drugs than cannbais and ectsasy. in that you would feel that the policy to date is actually helping. that is the real propoganda. people are being harmed by alcohol and tobacco and so if they were to use a safer drug than the harms would be less.

    check the studies on pot and driving verses those on alcohol and driving.
    they are numerous. have you ever checked them before you spout such claims? well nutt has.
    clearly the evidence is that driving under the influence of alcohol is what leads to more accidents and deaths of mothers.

    the whole argument that people will be driving around stoned and killing people is complete rubbish and if anything it would show someone that had half a brain that we as a society DO NOT punish people that drink with the reaosn because some people will drink and drive and crash. we have laws against drink driving only.
    so why the double standard for pot when in fact pot drivers are much less likley to have accidents. i am sick of people bringing the harder drugs into the argument and drawing conclusion about the softer ones using hard drug data harms.
    IF kids did even follow what the science says and used drugs under the guide of a drug harm index then they would be safer because the drugs would be classed appropriately. unless that happens young people will only continue to use them as they did before.

    people have known for a long time that the government has lied and exaggerated the dangers of cannabis. using fear to win elections by coming to the rescue and justifying millions of dollars being sent to alliances.

    we do need a policy, one that aims to reduce the harm and not one that only adds to it.

  42. isnain Says:

    like this…

  43. robert Says:

    like one that does not spend money on people that are adults using cannabis in a way that does not harm themselves or others. could we imagine arresting people that drink alcohol safely as a way to try stop drink driving? or stopping them maybe taking other drugs at a party after drinking?
    no you arrest for other drugs and arrest for drink driving and alcohol related violence you lay charges for selling to minors.
    you campaign and educate and penalise for these harmful practises only.
    you campaign and educate against the harms of substances and you do it in a way that is relative to the harms that society experiences.

    currently if you get caught for pot you are punished as if guilty of harming yourself and others. if your not harming and your not dealing then you should be left alone and people should not have to pay out of their taxes to fix them because they dont need fixing. there is millions of them. it costs billions to enforce it when there are a much smaller percentage that are actually having troubles. that target group would cost substantially less to target.
    so it would be more effective at its aims.

    the policy we have now might aim to reduce harms but it is not effective at all because we concentrate are efforts so broadly on useage or possesion.
    fair enough if your caught with more harmful drugs expect penalty but this way the penalty arises because we beleive that they may go onto harder drugs.
    well what if they dont? they shouldnt be penalised as if they did unless found guilty of it firstly. that is a more effective policy.

    currently we pull up thousands of people in the hope of finding those that are the problem.
    stop penalising adults that are not commiting other crimes. if someone steals, rapes or hurts someone you then have the funding to go after that instead of tying up police hours with petty pot offenses. that is a massive most innefective waste of our money and police time. about half of the time is spent on drug crimes and about 2/3 of that is on pot. similarly with courts and prisons. pot possession or useage in itself is just not worth the court time or the prison time when the science shows that it is a comparitively less harmful substance.
    the messages should go out, but not by having harsher penalties for those that are doing no harm. do not alienate these people.
    spend more money on getting the message itself across to your target group but not by placing it in the incorrect drug class for harm ranking as a way of getting a message out. the message becomes unclear because the tactic is wrong.
    its not just nutt saying so but numerous major studies that have been funded by various governments over decades yet still we keep shutting down the opinions of these experts..
    this current policy does not actually deter the young people that we are concerned about or we wouldnt be having these conversations.
    if it were effective we wouldnt see use as it is today.
    further to that, whats the point anyway of reduceig pot use by tightening a squeeze and then having people turn to harder drugs. thats the balloon effect at play.
    so concentrate on getting pot off the street dealers. drug dealers need to fund their habit or their lavish lifestyles. this is where your message is completely lost. with people on the ground offering drugs.
    take it from them and give it to licensed bussinesses that pay taxes. have health warnings, have clean products that are not tainted with whatever.
    offer different strenghts like we do alcohol. that way people that are concerned about strong pot dont have to have their supply dictated by forces driving the market to only have strong cannabis.

    production is then done under control like we do other legal drugs.

    concentrates on the young like we do with alcohol and concentrate further on those that actually need the treatment or help.
    stop lying so much and educate the people about the real true risks. that way they might know when they are encountering issues and that way they will not fear the government and its harsh penalties and will be more likely to come forth and get the help they need. currently people could look at the drug schedule and find that pot is not that harmful and so think that the other drugs are not so harmful either.

    what kid with problems is going to admit to being a drug user when its class B and class B penalties and you will then face even more sanctions or threats to your life than the drug use alone? they will steer clear of those in power and not see them as a kind, compassionate and helping hand.

    stop sending people into treatment as a way of getting out of penalty.
    they most likley do not need to be there.move the money into treatment as a health matter on those with health matters.
    what is the point of having an illegal substance that is so widely used by adults that is not as harmful as alcohol..regulate the sale of it so that we have age regulations. we feel this works best with tobacco and alcohol.

    pull it right out of the black market. cripple the black market and target those that still sell it. like we would home brewed beer.
    then you can go after the drugs that are always considered the harder drugs that we do not want young adults moving onto. remove pot from the gateway equation. do not have pot alongside harder drugs in the distribution network.
    kids might seek pot off a dealer currently and they can also move onto any other of their wares.
    it is sometimes claimed that by legalising the health costs for cannbais will rise way up. there is no evidence of this in california where it is sold widely as medical cannabis.
    people sometimes use alcohol as an example in that government only get so much back in taxes but the cost to society in death and domestic violence and hopsital emrgencies far outweighs the money they get in taxes. BUt this is using a more dangerous more harmful drug as evidence and therefor a far more costly drug as a bad example. cannabis does not have any where near the same problems. and we have decided that this is still the best practise for alcohol.

    you could remove cannabis from the crime equation.
    organised crime organisations do not want cannabis legal. they profit hugely by this policy. it helps fund them. more than half the money comes from cannabis alone because it is such a massive market because it is so widespread and accepted as the least harmful.
    look at it this way. cannabis is a bigger crop than corn. this is under the current policy. nothing can be done no matter how much tax money you use to try stop it. any year police seize more of it, it does not dent the supply so much, it means that more is around and they are still getting less than five percent of it. you will not have the al capones of the pot world. you will not have the guns with pot. all the crime you will restrict to the drugs that are more harmful. you will see a reduction in crime in two ways.
    they will have less money AND the police will have more money and more time for serious offenses.

  44. Drug Study Says:

    drug is always needed so its ok …………….. XD

  45. BMJ Group blogs: BMJ » Blog Archive » Annabel Bentley: Evidence of drugs and alcohol down the pub Says:

    [...] has recently written to the Home Secretary about this (the letter and response are posted on his personal blog). Dr Harris also added a light-hearted comment about scientific understanding “MPs don’t [...]

  46. David Raynes Says:

    Wonderful stuff from Evan Harris but wrong on just about everything. I laughed out loud when I saw him describe the Journal Of Psychopharmacaology (Editor D Nutt-does he know that?) articles, as “peer reviewed”.

    But no matter, let us stick to some facts. Nutt was not dismissed for himself believing that cannabis should be classified at C and not B he was dismissed for crusading and entering the political sphere-as he obviously has.

    What might just about be acceptable crusading as a simple member of the ACMD (though most members keep their personal views to themselves and do not crusade against parliamentary and government decisions), was plainly NOT acceptable in Nutt as Chairman. Actually he was not even Chairman at the last cannabis discussion, his view carried no more weight than any other.

    The role of Chairman would involve Nutt in representing TO GOVERNMENT the considered decision of the whole ACMD but also in recognising that the ACMD itself was not unanimous and in being fair and balanced in everything he says publicly on the subject.

    When that point was put to him on BBC News 24 (the lack of unanimity of the ACMD), after his dismmissal and sounding off, he squirmed. He was the embodiment of that word.

    Of course he did, because in his public pronouncements since his dismisal he has unscientifically represented the evidence around cannabis classification and harm as clear cut.

    It was not, it was a marginal decision with government forced by events to be cautious, forced by contradictory opinion and evidence to be cautious, forced by events to admit it had made a mistake in the Blunkett Blunder of downgrading.

    Professor Nutt has studiously avoided reporting the lack of unanimity on the ACMD, avoided mentioning the call from the National Director of Mental Health, Professor Appleby, for reclassification to B. He has avoided discussing the disturbing evidence we heard at the ACMD, on THC/CBD ratios and the potential for harm from that.

    According to Professor Robin Murray who IS an expert on cannabis psychosis, Professor Nutt has “played fast & loose with the statistics” on cannabis.

    Just what was government to do? Is government not to hear these other voices? Not to listen, to believe that the accidental & temporary grouping on the ACMD is the ONLY source of information? I suggest Evan Harris in the unlikely even of HIM being Home Secretary, would not accept that.

    Of course it is said Jacquie Smith asked Nutt if he was a”legaliser”. nothing wrong with him being a legaliser some nice people are, Steve Rolles my regular sparring partner is one-a paid mouthpiece for Transform-he is a good guy, I like him, he does not pretend to be something else though. I have almost always found him very fair-though praise from me might be a mixed blessing?

    I do note, that since his dismissal Profesor Nutt has suggested we experiment with cannabis cafes on the Dutch model, curious when the Dutch are cutting them back and treating many people for cannabis dependancy. It does sound as though Jacquie Smith uncharacteristically maybe-got something right.

    As to the XTC statements from the Home Office, yes Steve is right they have refused to countenance lowering the classification of XTC, the simple reason as I understand it, is that XTC kills a good number of people every year- more or less for practical purposes instantly, regardless of the long term serotonin conseqences.

    Nutts views on XTC also contradicts Professor Andrew Parrott who IS one of the top authourities. Once again the total of evidence the government hears is contradictory.

    When one looks at the whole sum of Professor Nutt’s activities including his long association with the Beckley Foundation, run by someone who amazingly believes that boring a hole in ones head for non medical reasons is sensible (trepanning), when one considers his efforts to invent & promote a social replacement for alcohol (presumably a main beneficiary would be D Nutt). When one considers his view that a small group of scientists (selected by him presumably) should decide drug classification regardless of the views of anyone else (even Evan Harris-horror of horrors) who happens to disagree-however well qualified, one can only assume he wants to break the present system in its entirety.

    I have no problem with him wanting that, after all Steve Rolles does. I do though, like Alan Johnston and Jacquie Smith resent him trying to do that from the insde of the system.

    I resent him claiming a spurious accuracy around his particular views on classification and misrepresenting all of it to the public. That is not science and it is unworthy. We are well rid of him.

    Professor Nutt has been found out and flushed from cover. I predict confidently he will not be able to shut up.

  47. John W Says:

    TEN FREED IN £14.5m DRUGS BUNGLE

    Western Daily Press 05/02/1999

    http://www.thisisbristol.com/

    TEN men arrested aboard a ship carrying £14.5 million of cannabis walked free yesterday after a smuggling case against them sensationally
    collapsed.

    A series of embarrassing legal blunders by Customs investigators means
    no jury will hear what the men – including four ex-marines – were doing
    on a ship laden with four tonnes of cannabis in international waters.

    A team of elite Special Boat Squadron commandos, backed by three British warships, had swarmed on to the Maltese-registered freighter Simon de Danser off Portugal in May 1997 in what was one of the largest
    operations of its kind conducted by British Customs.

    But last night the men behind the swoop were blamed by a judge for
    “flawed proceedings, illegality and incompetence”.

    Judge John Foley threw out the case after three weeks of legal argument
    at Bristol Crown court after ruling that:

    Customs and Excise officers backed the wrong hunch by assuming the boat was en-route to England when it could have been heading for Holland.

    Customs officials failed to seek permission from the right people before
    sending in the Special Boat Squad officers to make the arrests.

    Last night, the defendants’ lawyer Kevin Robinson, said he would apply
    to the High Court to have his clients’ assets released by the
    authorities.

    Judge John Foley criticised the Customs and Excise handling of the case
    before formally discharging the ten men from the dock. As the
    multi-million- pound case collapsed in ruins, Judge Foley said the
    operation revealed “a catalogue of flawed proceedings, illegality and
    incompetence at a number of levels”.

    Three weeks of legal arguments at Bristol amid tight security – a convoy
    of armed officers had given five of the accused an escort from jail each
    day, bringing the city’s traffic to a standstill each morning – had cost
    an estimated £1.5 million.

    But beyond that, the Customs operation had run since 1996 and involved a select band of officers shadowing the alleged smugglers over two
    continents.

    Customs claimed that the ship, the Simon de Danser, was headed for the
    North-east of England where it would land the drugs.

    But defence barristers argued that by raiding the boat in international
    waters, it could not be proved where it was heading and this was akin to
    “arresting a shop lifter before he got to a check-out”.

    Judge Foley yesterday said that David Raynes, assistant chief
    investigation officer of the South West Customs and Excise, said the UK
    destination was based on a hunch – on which he said he would “bet his
    pension” – rather than hard evidence.

    In a damning ruling the judge added: “This case has revealed a culture
    and climate of carelessness, recklessness and disregard for the rules,
    procedures and convention of Maltese law, British law and international
    law.”

    One of the accused, former Royal Marine Peter Mercer, from Clevedon,
    North Somerset, told how the case had devastated his life.

    He said: “My parents have been devastated. It has been a terrible two
    years. I am going to try to get on with my life as best I can.”

    The men were arrested in May 1997 when the SBS team raided the Maltese-registered Simon de Danser, off the coast of Portugal. The boarding party found more than four tonnes of cannabis resin with a street value of about £14.5m.

    The crew of seven aboard, including two serving Royal Marines and two
    former members of the regiment, were arrested. Three others were
    detained in a series of 23 raids across Britain.

    The ship had been shadowed by Royal Navy destroyer HMS York as part of a surveillance operation by Customs and Excise and what was then called the South West regional crime squad.

    All the accused were said to have conspired to smuggle cannabis resin
    from Morocco into Britain. Along with Peter Mercer, 28, of Staples
    Close, Clevedon, the others accused were David Charrington, 45, of
    Powderham, Exeter; Timothy Spink, 33, of Torquay; skipper Charles
    Thomas, 37, of Poole, Dorset; Nigel Spencer, 28, of Poole; Mark Jones,
    33, of Paignton, Devon.

    Also accused were Britons Anthony Dallara, 34, and Martin Wallsden, 42,
    and Frenchman Alain Coelier, 38, who all live in Spain. Another 37-year-
    old defendant could not be named for legal reasons.

    Spencer and Jones were serving in the Marines when they were arrested.
    Spencer left two months after being detained and Jones was medically
    discharged in October last year. Mercer and Thomas had left the service
    before they were arrested.

    After the case the Royal Marines Commandant, Major General Robert Fulton said: “We were very disappointed to hear that in May 1997 two serving Marines had been arrested and this disappointment was greatly magnified by the nature of the alleged offences.”

    The court heard that Customs did not obtain the correct permission to
    board the drugs vessel from the Maltese authorities.

    Instead of getting permission from the country’s Attorney General,
    Customs officers were granted permission from the Maltese Maritime
    Authority. One Customs officer, Lawrence Montalto, insisted he had
    telephoned the Maltese Attorney General’s office, but records showed
    there no such call was made.

    During legal argument, Alun Jenkins QC, prosecuting, argued this had
    been an “innocent” mistake and should not make seizure unlawful.

    Mr David Raynes, assistant chief investigation officer of the Customs in
    the West Country, admitted in court he did not tell the Maltese that the
    ship was off Portugal. He also said he would not have told them if they
    had asked.

  48. News in Links « Standing above the fog Says:

    [...] I thought there was something fishy about this, it didn’t seem to me like the statements were campaigning, even with the media leaping on them in the way they did. But with work and family I didn’t have time to look beyond the headlines. Turns out my feeling was right. Dr Evan Harris, (the Lib Dem MP for Oxford West) covers this in his blog, systematically taking apart the sacking and then Alan Johnson’s response to criticism. [...]

  49. Opinion: An open letter to Lord Adonis Says:

    [...] advisor because his advice was no longer politically palatable, is similar to the Lib Dems, who lead the calls for scientific advice to be given free from the shackles of political expedience? Can it be that Labour, who wheeled out their compliant MPs like so many whipped dogs-on-a-leash to [...]

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