Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr Fulton Gillespie


  1.  This memorandum is my personal view and has been prepared specifically for this inquiry.

  2.  My son, Scott, third eldest of our five children, died from heroin abuse aged 33 on 20 February 2000, one month short of his 34th birthday. My other children are drug-free.

  3.  Four things contributed to his accidental death:

    (a)  he was stupid to start using heroin in the first place;

    (b)  he had spent five weeks in prison without drugs (stealing to buy drugs);

    (c)  on release his body couldn't take this normal dose (coroner's view);

    (d)  urine acetylcodeine showed the heroin was toxic (pathology report).

  4.  I believe my son would be alive today if all drugs were legalised and controlled because:

    (a)  he would have had no need to steal and would not have been in prison;

    (b)  the heroin would have been controlled and, therefore, not impure;

    (c)  proper treatment under a controlled system would have been available.

  5.  I believe drugs are a public health, not a criminal matter and:

    (a)  they should be taken out of the monopoly clutches of criminals;

    (b)  the billions saved in law enforcement, street and property crime etc should be channelled into control, licensing, education, prevention and treatment;

    (c)  that thousands more like my son will die from criminally-supplied impure drugs unless western governments recognise that the present war against drugs is unwinnable and counter-productive.


Does existing drugs policy work?

  No, because it neither curbs the availability of, demand for, or use of drugs. In support of this view, on 26 July 2001, the BBC reported that 14 per cent of 11-15 year olds had used illegal substances in 1999, up from 11 per cent in 1998.

What would be the effect of decriminalisation on (a) the availability of and demand for drugs (b) drug-related deaths and (c) crime?

  As I understand it, decriminalisation would leave drug offences on the statute book, but in certain cases offenders would not be prosecuted. This does not deal effectively with (a), (b) and (c).

Is decriminalisation desirable, and, if not, what are the practical alternatives?

  If (a), (b) and (c) above are to be tackled effectively then legalisation ought to be considered as a practical alternative. I believe it would control availability and demand, and, therefore, reduce drug-related deaths and crime. For 40 years we have tried a range of anti-drugs policies based on reducing availability, demand and use, allied to enforcement. Reduction has not been achieved and attempts at enforcement have served largely to demonstrate the lethal impotence of the law. We have never tried legalisation. We cannot, therefore, say it does not, or will not, work.


  I understand that the very concept of legalisation will be anathema to many who may ask how it can be morally justified. My view is that there is more moral justification in trying to cut crime and save young people's lives in leaving things as they are—under the control of criminal drug gangs. Those who believe that legalisation will make hard drugs more available to more young people overlook the fact that hard drugs are more available to more young people now, even with prohibition in force. In the last century America tried alcohol prohibition and all they got was gang warfare. We are seeing a good deal of this on the streets of our major cities, even in rural Ipswich where my son died. Apart from the health and welfare costs of drug abuse, drug-related crime is costing this country billions. Further, multi-billion pound drug cartels, by bribery and terror, are undermining and corrupting law enforcement and political systems across the world. Prohibition is simply fuelling this fire. It did not work in the past, and I do not believe prohibition in the 21st century is any more of a workable solution. Finally, I would ask the Committee this question: Is leaving the production, supply and distribution of hard drugs in the hands of criminals really the best we can do? If the answer to that is no, then surely it follows that the link with crime must be broken. This should be the first step to shifting drugs out of the monopoly control of criminals and into that of public health where I believe it can be most effectively controlled.

September 2001

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