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
(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
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
areunder 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