Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1440
TUESDAY 12 MARCH 2002
1440. What do you think about the comments that
were made last week by the Minister that clubs should have places
available and information available for people to take ecstasy?
(Mrs Humphreys) I think that is a brilliant idea because
I think that keeping people alive and helping is better than sort
of saying, "Oh well, you have been disobedient. We are not
going to help you die. It doesn't matter. You have been stupid
and have taken ecstasy when you shouldn't". They are being
realistic in understanding that young people will do this whether
they like it or not and I think it is very good that they can
have the health things that they need there. It is brilliant.
1441. A constituent of mine was a 21-year-old
girl who was an undergraduate, otherwise of completely good character,
who was caught in a nightclub supplying to three or four friends
an ecstasy tablet each at no personal profit to herself and she
was sent to prison for two years. Now, could I assume that each
of you would take the view that she should not have been prosecuted
and that in any event disposal was wrong? Would any of you like
to say that that is what they think, if it is?
(Mr Gillespie) Yes, I do.
1442. Do you think there is anything in the
argument that the judge who sentenced her said, "This will
act as a deterrent to others"? Do you think there is any
merit in that?
(Mrs Humphreys) No merit in that whatsoever and even
going to prison did not stop, does not stop young people taking
drugs, even when they are caught. There used to be laws against
being a homosexual and it did not stop people being homosexuals
even though they knew they could be locked up. I know that I perhaps
should not say that, but it is something that people are doing
and do and that is it and I really do not think that there should
be laws like that.
1443. Could I press each of you perhaps to answer
this question. The views you express now are very genuine, but
do you think that the same attitude would have been taken or should
have been taken by a parent of one of the three other students
who was sold for the first time in their life perhaps an ecstasy
(Mrs Humphreys) I doubt that it was like that because
she was supplying it to friends. They probably said, "Are
you going to get them tonight?". I do not know.
1444. Can we just assume that one was a parent
of a person who bought one that night off this girl for, say,
whatever price, £3 or £4, I do not know. It would be
harder to accept that parent taking the sort of attitude which
you all appear to be taking.
(Mr Sims) Well, I think particularly if the only access
that parent had had to information was, let's say, in the media,
for example, but if that parent had been provided with education
early enough because what often happens in families is that the
parents are frightened to start a conversation because they are
frightened that they will say the wrong thing and that their kids
will know more than they do, and they might be right in that,
but that means that no conversation often starts, so early conversation
that is informed can maybe in that kind of circumstance that you
describe prevent a parent from maybe panicking about that episode
to the degree that it then is counterproductive in the family
with that particular child.
1445. You see, appreciating that it is very
possible to take the view that this student should not have been
sent to prison and should not have been prosecuted, there is a
difficulty, is there not, with the vast majority, if you like,
of parents and families in the country who take the view that
if such a tablet were sold to their own child who had previously
not touched such a tablet, then the law would have to intervene?
(Mr Sims) I think there is a natural inclination on
the part of the families that we work with, for example, to hope
that the law will provide a simple answer to the problem of drugs.
That cannot happen and it does not happen because society plays
a role as well as does peer pressure and what we seem to find
in the families we work with as well is that where that family
has been affected by drugs in some way, it begins to understand
that there are not any simple answers, that the law is not and
cannot be enough on its own.
1446. You do not think that that kind of tough
prison sentence was in any way a deterrent in their eyes?
(Mrs Humphreys) No, absolutely not.
(Ms Williams) It is not a deterrent. If you talk to
heroin users, young girls who prostitute themselves, 13 or 14-year-olds,
for £4 or £5 bags of heroin, they are picked up, they
are put in jail, they either deal or steal, and there is no deterrent
and that drug becomes their first cause of concern. They do not
think about going to prison, if they do or when they do; it just
comes with the territory. It is not a deterrent unfortunately,
1447. Mrs Humphreys, I want to be clear. Are
you arguing that ecstasy should be reclassified from A to B or
something like that?
(Mrs Humphreys) The Runciman Report looked into it
all and they had all sorts of scientists looking at it and they
recommended that, and I would tend to go along with what the scientists
say. If that is what they recommended, and there are lots and
lots of people out there who have done it on a purely scientific
basis, yes, it should be downgraded to B if that is the category
it should be in for the dangers that it presents.
1448. So you are not saying that it should be
(Mrs Humphreys) No. Having said that, it does not
matter what category they are in, whether they are legalised or
not and lots of prescriptive drugs are in categories, are they
not, but I think all drugs should be legal and brought under reasonable
legal control, which does not mean a free-for-all and everybody
taking drugs, just legal in the same way as alcohol is. I do not
think it is any different.
1449. One of the difficulties that we have discovered
is that if you sit two sets of professionals down side by side,
you get different opinions about what is dangerous and what is
(Mrs Humphreys) But they would do that with alcohol
too. Apparently if alcohol was classed, it would be a Class A
drug and smoking would be Class B apparently if they used the
1450. Well, we have not had anybody telling
us that, but what we have had
(Mrs Humphreys) Well, the Runciman Report said it.
1451. Well, what we have had, and I do not think
the Runciman Report recommended declassifying it, did it, ecstasy
(Mrs Humphreys) Yes, it did.
1452. Well, there have been scientists who say
that it is dangerous still.
(Mrs Humphreys) Yes, there are scientists who say
it is dangerous
1453. And they quote the 80 people who died
(Mrs Humphreys) Yes, but the thing is that it is not
so simple as that. A lot of the people who are dying after taking
ecstasy had probably been drinking, they may be overheated, the
wrong health things were done. You cannot just blame it on ecstasy,
I would say.
1454. Can I put to you a tough question which
I think one or two Members would want me to put to you and that
is that if your son had been one of the people who died as a result
of being sold ecstasy rather than one of the people who was convicted
of selling it, would your view be any different?
(Mrs Humphreys) I think perhaps at first I would be
just so shattered by the death and everything that I would want
to blame somebody, but then I would have to think about it as
a whole thing and understand why did he want to take it in the
first place, what are young people doing, why was it able to be
so dangerous, why was it not controlled. I think I would have
gradually got to it because in a way your son being sent to prison
just out of the blue and like that, I am not saying it is the
same as a bereavement, but it is almost a kind of bereavement,
so I had to understand then what he was doing and why was he doing
it and what his friends do and try really to understand and make
sense of it and how we could improve that kind of thing and how
wrong it all was. Even if he had died, I would still feel the
1455. Ms Williams, what would the effect in
Stockton be, do you think, if heroin was legalised and regulated?
(Ms Williams) You would cut the crime rate immensely.
There would be no crime, it would take the market away.
1456. Would it?
(Ms Williams) I am not sure when you say "legalise".
For me it would be controlled and prescribed by a GP, you know.
1457. But then you run into an immediate problem,
there are not many GPs interested in this?
(Ms Williams) In our town we have two now.
1458. Two in the whole town! That really summarises
(Ms Williams) I think we could get more GPs to come
on board. It would not be every user that would want diamorphine,
some users do like methadone. It is back down to choice, if you
are treating the user with what they need to keep them well why
would they go to the black market?
1459. Now the problem is this, is it not, that
as you said that there are 13 year old girls, never mind kids
of 18 or 20, and if it was legalised and regulated there would
have to be an age limit, would there not, so there would still
be a large illegal market available?
(Ms Williams) I would leave that to the doctor to
decide in their opinion who should be given it and who should
not be given it.