Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Roger Titcombe (DP036)

I am a retired head teacher and independent educational researcher with many published papers (see below).

Over the past decade I have been struck by the number of murders that involve bizarre levels of spontaneous violence by young people and a link with cannabis use. This link does not appear to have systematically researched but I have noted from press reports that almost all such murders have been carried out by young people belonging to a cannabis using cult and many have been reported as taking place soon after heavy use of this drug.

In the recent Stephen Lawrence trial we saw hidden camera images of extremely violent play-acting. Were the participants taking cannabis at the time? I suspect that they were. I also suspect that the murder itself was committed soon after a communal cannabis smoking event.

I suspect the same with regard to the murder in Salford of Anuj Bidve.

There is growing medical evidence of the cognitive damage caused by heavy cannabis use from an early age by children. As a former head teacher I have first hand experience of the disastrous effect of the cannabis habit and the culture in which it is taken on schoolchildren.

I realise that association does not prove causality, but how will we know unless blood tests are systematically carried out on suspects and appropriate questions are asked by the police at the time?

Since the Stephen Lawrence murder hundreds of black young people have been murdered in crimes described as “mindless” at the time, or put down to gang activities or racism. What they have in common is a completely disproportionate lack of rational motive. Racist hate on its own is not credible as a sufficient explanation. What if these crimes really were mindless in the literal sense of being committed by young people with severely damaged cognitive faculties?

One of the reasons why cannabis use is overlooked is its prevalence amongst media professionals, which is reflected in the regular calls for legalisation from the likes of the Guardian and the Independent. Such use by the educated classes and aging hippies is at a different level, at different ages, with different sorts of cannabis and cannot be compared with what is happening within the NEETs (“not in education, employment, or training”) culture that pervades the lives of hundreds of thousands of educational failures so labelled from the time they failed to get SATs Level 4 at school.

I urge you to set up an investigation into the role of cannabis in “mindless” extremely violent crime by young people. A good place to start would be with the Stephen Lawrence and Anuj Bidve murders, the former because of the vast amount of evidence that has been collected and the latter if only because of its deeply shocking nature. If “Psycho” turns out to be implicated then we really should be asking how he got his nickname and cause of his mental unbalance.

Papers Published since Retirement from Headship in 2003

Brown D, Floor targets will cause schools to fail, Forum, Vol 45, No 3, 2003.

Brown D, Is floor target policy fair?, Topic (NfER journal), Issue 33, 2004

These articles were published by me with the consent of the Cumbria LEA under a pseudonym using anonymised data based on Cumbria LEA schools’ GCSE and standard scores data. The pseudonym was necessary in order to protect the anonymity of the data.

Titcombe R and Davies R, Curriculum Change and School Improvement, TES, 2006 (published on website).

This was the report arising from a major research project carried out in conjunction with and funded by TES. It was the basis of a later paper by me and also a section in a book by Warwick Mansell, Education by Numbers: The Tyranny of Testing, Politicos, London 2007.

Titcombe R, Cognitive Ability and School Improvement, Practical Research for Education, Issue 36, 2006.

This anticipated and was confirmed by much subsequent work on National Curriculum Testing.

Titcombe R, How academies threaten the comprehensive curriculum, Forum, Vol 50, No 1, 2008.

This work built on the TES research and has been frequently cited, including recently in the Civitas Report, School improvement or the Equivalent by Anastasia de Waal, October 2008, and also in the report of the Parliamentary Committee of Enquiry into academies and trust schools, June 2007.

Titcombe R, A Case Study in School Improvement, Forum, Vol 53, No 3, 2011.

My work has been referred to or quoted in numerous national press articles since 2003.

January 2012

Prepared 8th December 2012