GONE TO POT

 “I HAD NEVER been into drugs, not even at university, where they were supposed to be freely available. Well, to be strictly accurate, I’d been offered a spliff at a party once, but, like all those people in high places who set such a good example for lesser mortals to follow, I hadn’t actually inhaled; according to my friends in the know, this defeated the object of the exercise.

In my professional capacity, drink and drugs formed a sizeable part of my practice, from yobs in town centres drinking themselves senseless, assuming they had any sense in the first place, to lowlife on dark street corners offering coke, and brown, and hash, and speed, and E’s and anything else that took your fancy. It was very depressing, as it was to the bobbies on the beat who found themselves in the front line, night after night, when they weren’t back at the station filling in forms.”

Reproduced by kind permission of Monday Books from May It Please Your Lordship by Toby Potts.

Banner headline in my newspaper: Make all drug use legal, say experts.  They must be on something! These ‘experts’ are two bodies describing themselves respectively as the Royal Society for Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health.  Question: why do we need two when none will do?  And are they related in any way to that strange woman, I forget her name, who claimed to be the Chief Medical Officer, and who wanted to ban us from drinking?

These experts tell us that an addiction to controlled drugs is the same as an addiction to alcohol or tobacco. “We don’t make a moral judgement on those.”  Don’t we?  Where have these experts been for the past several years?  We have laws banning smoking all all public places, and now all cigarettes are to be sold in plain packets.  We have laws banning drinking and driving, and now, almost all alcoholic beverages carry a ‘drink awareness’ message. In addition, the consumption of alcohol can and should be controlled by the vendors, whether supermarkets or public houses.  They must assume some responsibility in return for the profits they make.

Like Toby Potts, I have never tried any controlled drugs, be they Class A, B or C, but as somebody said, and it may have been me: “You don’t need to feed from the trough to know how pigs live.”   I am wholly convinced of their damaging effects, damaging not just for the user but also for those in their close proximity.  How many times in the recent past have we heard excuses for criminal behaviour blamed on drugs?

Besides making all drugs legal, these ‘cloud cuckoo’ experts suggest that young people should be given more education on the risk of drugs at school.  But these schools, especially inner city ones, are so overcrowded the teachers can’t hear themselves think.  They also call on the NHS to take over responsibility for dealing with addicts.  But the NHS is already in debt to the tune of £2.4 billion, so where is this extra funding coming from?

The fact that, according to some, we are losing the war on drugs doesn’t mean we should simply surrender.  There can be no excuse for the abuse of drugs or alcohol, and if this means the continued enforcement of criminal sanctions, then so be it.  These experts, like so many of their predecessors, simply don’t think it through, and an informed debate on drugs, crime and punishment is cheapened by these silly suggestions.  As for funding, let’s abolish these bodies and invest the money in reducing the NHS crippling debt.

David Osborne is the author of three humorous books on the Law.  His latest, entitled Order in Court, is now available in all reputable bookstores and on Amazon.

order-in-court1

TIME FOR A RETHINK

Here we go again.  Another drink, consent and rape case which featured prominently in the press, and surprisingly, merited half a page in The Times. I suspect this may have something to do with the fact that the accused, now gloriously acquitted, goes to Durham University, was the secretary of the Debating Society, hails from Jersey, as if that has anything to do with it, dresses smartly and has ‘Oscar Wilde’ foppish good looks. All in all, a thoroughly decent young man.

That aside, what depresses me time and again is the ongoing issue of drink and consent which has not been addressed at all since my blog She was gagging for it nearly twelve months ago.  As far as I can tell, Alison Saunders is still the Director of Public Prosecutions, and as far as I can tell, she is still telling her prosecutors to prosecute any drink and consent cases regardless of the evidence if the alleged victim cries rape after the event. In this particular case, the CPS have trotted out the well worn mantra: “Taking all the evidence into consideration, it was decided there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction that it was in the public interest to prosecute this case.”  The jury took less than 3 hours to find the lad not guilty, so how does that square with their statement that there was a realistic prospect of conviction?  It beggars belief.

Consent is not vitiated afterwards simply because the girl didn’t enjoy the experience and wished she hadn’t said yes, but time and again, we hear reports that drunken girls are willingly going with boys right up to the wire, and often beyond, and then crying rape.  The Crown Prosecution Service is primed to believe the alleged victim instead of using their own judgment in highly questionable cases where they should be telling her to grow up and get a life, in the nicest possible way of course.  Prosecuting an innocent person to conviction is life changing, and he becomes the victim.  He will go to prison, he will be placed onto the sex offenders’ register to be monitored indefinitely, and he risks being disqualified from certain types of employment.  The appeal process is slow and cumbersome and designed to uphold the conviction unless it would be compellingly unjust to do so, and those cases are as rare as hen’s teeth.

The debate over anonymity for those accused of rape has opened up, yet again, with the usual suspects, some better informed than others, offering their opinion.  As it happens, I was invited the other day to debate the question of anonymity at Durham University no less, an invitation I have regrettably declined, but it needs debating.  As we say, the jury are out on anonymity for the accused.  The complainant has anonymity, so why not the accused, or so the argument goes.  It barely scratches the surface of the real debate, which is when is it right and proper to prosecute at all, and the CPS mantra needs to be revisited.

In my blog back in February of last year, I caused a furore amongst the strident Feministas when I suggested that where consent was in issue and the complainant was drunk, the accused should not be prosecuted.  Let me qualify this to avoid yet another Feminista verbal firestorm.  The CPS need to take a careful look at their prosecuting guidelines when deciding if it is in the public interest to prosecute.

Far better that the complainant walks away with her reputation and her anonymity intact than one innocent defendant is wrongly convicted.

BOTTOMS UP

Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, has obviously been on the sauce.  How else can she explain her extraordinary outburst about drinking and the risks to health?

My late father used to say: “Give a man a whistle and he’ll want to blow it.”  In the case of Sally Davies, give the woman a title, and she’ll expect to be taken seriously.  Not so, I cry, and I am not alone. And on this evidence, do we need a chief medical officer, if this is as good as it gets.

You may have read her report, the first for 25 years, and frankly, it’s not worth the wait, where she opines that men should not drink more than a bottle and a half of wine a week.  Yes, you read it right, and it gets worse.  She continues, without breaking step or wind, that any drinking is bad for you.  Poor Bacchus, never so maligned!

The goodly dame, of pantomime proportions, trots out the discredited ‘units’ calculations, which have been around since the dawn of time and which nobody, not even she, understands, and undaunted, she waffles on about limiting our intake to 14 units a week, not a day, where she would get my vote.

The problem about these perorations is that they are overkill, and risk being ignored.  According to a number of experts, her ‘advice’ is described at best as vague, inconsistent, and confusing.  Even she admits that her advice may go unheeded, and she is absolutely right, because put in these terms, nobody is going to take her or her advice seriously.  Intelligent people will know, without Davies telling them, that abusing alcohol by excessive drinking is dangerous to the health.  Stupid people, who can’t follow the advice if they wanted to, and they don’t, couldn’t give a flying f**k.

Dame Sally’s advice has provoked comment from learned quarters that I never knew existed.  For example, at the University of Cambridge, there is a professor called Spiegelhalter, which back in the Fatherland means ‘mirror mounts’, strange  or what, and he specialises in the public understanding of risk, I kid you not.  I suspect he’s related to Doctor Strangelove.  Anyway, he states the obvious: “It all seems to come down to what pleasure you get from moderate drinking.”  Wise words indeed.  And then there’s Matt Field, professor of addiction at the University of Liverpool, who states, with wisdom beyond his years: “It’s important to bear in mind that most activities carry some risk.”  I wish I’d thought of that.  Finally, Chris Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs, dismissed Sally and her advice as scaremongering and ordered another round.

Everything in moderation.  So Sally Davies should go back into her box, and if absolutely necessary, emerge in another 25 years’ time with an update which, once again, we will ignore. In the meantime, I shall continue drinking, and when it’s time to go, I shall go with a smile on my lips and a glass of fine cognac to see me on my way.  Bottoms up!

THE RAPE DEBATE RAGES ON

I was invited onto  a Radio 5 talk show not so long ago, hosted by the ubiquitous Nicky Campbell who, when he isn’t hosting some programme or other of dubious provenance, is extolling the virtues of equally dubious lawyers offering compensation for injury or loss, real or imagined.

Anyway, the subject under discussion and on which I had been invited to comment was the hoary old chestnut of rape and consent.  You may remember my article on this some months ago entitled She was gagging for it, and before I could draw breath, the Feministas and their cohorts were at the palace gates, baying for my blood.  What so excited them was the front page headline in the Daily Mirror which read: “If a woman is drunk, it can’t be rape.”

One of the problems with our instant gratification society is the unwillingness of so many to read beyond the sound bite, and so it was with my article.  Once the dust had settled, many of the more mature comments came from readers who had bothered to read the whole article, and not just the headline.  What I wrote then, and I repeat now, is that drunken consent is still consent, and anybody indulging in sexual intercourse should not be liable to prosecution.

I reminded Campbell and his listeners that the definition of rape included the important proviso that an accused person is guilty of rape if the complainant does not consent AND the accused does not reasonably believe that she consents.  So there is an onus on the accused.  It goes further: whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps the accused has taken to ascertain whether the complainant consents.  All this and more is to be considered by the jury when deciding if the complainant has been raped.

Back to Campbell and the subject under discussion.  It was whether or not young people should be required to attend ‘consent lessons’, and a brave and articulate student had written an article in his student rag  stating “I don’t have to be taught to not be a rapist.”  Somewhat lacking in syntax, that’s universities for you, but the message was clear enough.  The lad in question was 19 years old.

He suffered the same furore as me, but as a ‘veteran’ lawyer, at least according to the Daily Mirror, I had broad shoulders and could withstand the brickbats.  For his part, he was subjected to  venomous criticism and appalling abuse at a relatively tender age.   Embarking as he does at the beginning of life in the market place, clutching his totally useless degree and weighed down by enormous student debt, he is fearful that this explosion of vilification will affect his career prospects.

If it helps, he has my unqualified support, not only for saying what needs to be said, but also for refusing to be intimidated against all the odds.  And as for those baying for his blood, shut up and get a life.

PS. Important news hot off the press. Scientists have discovered a drug that can extend the life of old dogs by as much as 4 years. Very good news indeed for all those old dogs in the legal profession still clinging to the wreckage.

STILL GAGGING FOR IT

The firestorm continues apace following my original blog of the same title and the Daily Mirror’s take on it.  Whatever else, it has got people talking about the issues raised in (alleged) rape cases, and most important of all, the issue of drink and drugs. Whilst my remedy for the resolution of this issue was not well received by the majority of women who have commented on it, I remind my readers that there is a real prospect of a miscarriage of justice if the prosecution are allowed to move the goalposts as Alison Saunders is suggesting.  I also remind my readers that a conviction for rape carries with it an immediate sentence of imprisonment, and trying to overturn an unsafe conviction is a protracted and uncertain procedure.

That said, the purpose of this update is to put this lively debate into proportion.  Excluding the Press and the Media, who often work to their own agenda and where truth can be a moveable  feast, the reaction of those leaving comments on my blog has been most instructive.  They divide almost equally along gender lines.  The women for the most part are strident in their condemnation.  According to the Daily Mail, leading the pack is Ms. Sarah Green, director of End Violence against Women Coalition, followed hard on her heels by Ms. Louise Pennington, of the campaign group Ending Victimisation.  By the very banner headlines under which they parade their prejudices, it is unlikely I shall find a balanced and reasoned argument.

The men have a different take on the issue.  I wonder if a brother organisation similar to Louise Pennington’s campaign group, but there to protect men from being falsely accused of rape, might find favour to redress the imbalance.

For the purposes of a headcount, I ignore the expletives and offensive comments, once again from women, which add nothing  to the debate and which have been deleted.  By the same token, I cannot comment on individual cases brought to my attention by men or on behalf of men, who claim they have been the subject of a miscarriage of justice.  I would need to know all the facts before reaching a conclusion.

You can read the comments left on my blog for yourselves and make up your own minds.

Postscript.  It seems that my timely intervention in the casual sex and consent debate is already reaping dividends.  Teenage pregnancies have fallen to their lowest rate since records began more than four decades ago. And it doesn’t stop there. There is a new government initiative to encourage discussions amongst children as young as 11 on difficult subjects such as rape, coercion, drink, and at what point teenagers are capable of agreeing to sex. You can thank me later.