Civil Liberties & Justice

Room for improvement: How drug consumption rooms save lives

A new report by Jarryd Bartle, a drug policy consultant and university lecturer, calls for Britain to introduce life-saving Drug Consumption Rooms:

  • Drug consumption rooms are an evidence-based harm reduction intervention which allow people who use illicit drugs to do so within a medically supervised environment.

  • The use of drug consumption rooms in other jurisdictions has been shown to reduce drug-related deaths, reduce health burdens and decrease public injection and syringe litter.

  • Supervised Drug Consumption Rooms are effective at engaging hard to reach, highly marginalised populations with drug treatment, healthcare and other services. People in treatment use less illegal heroin and other drugs, potentially reducing the scale of the illegal drugs market.

  • Concerns that drug consumption rooms will increase drug use, attract substance users to an area or increase local crime are not supported by research.

  • A large majority (89%) of drug users are willing to use a drug consumption room.

    The UK is falling behind the rest of the world, including countries such as Australia, Canada, Denmark and France which are increasingly adopting drug consumption rooms as part of drug harm reduction strategies. 

  • This paper recommends that the UK prioritises the introduction of an integrated drug consumption room in an area identified as being of increased risk of drug-related harms.

  • Drug consumption rooms currently sit in a legal gray zone, leading to a lack of willingness by local authorities to introduce this proven harm reduction strategy. This could be addressed by:

    • 1. An explicit statement by the Home Office that the operation of DCRs is a matter for local authorities; specific rules could then be agreed by police forces, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), health bodies and local authorities; and

    • 2. The UK Parliament passing legislation that makes it explicitly legal to take controlled substances within such facilities in specified circumstances.

The War on Capitalism

According to mainstream human rights thinking all human rights are “indivisible". Therefore, this mantra insists, economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to an adequate living and the right to social security should not be treated differently from classic freedom rights such as free speech and habeas corpus. In 'The War on Capitalism: Human rights, political bias' Jacob Mchangama argues that this conflation of very different rights is a fallacy, and that it reveals a marked political bias towards state involvement in the economy, increased public spending and the limitation or even abolishment of free market initiatives.

Read it here.

 

 

Safeguarding civil liberties

This paper itemizes how recent government acts have compromised or removed many of the legal protections traditionally enjoyed under common law. These include habeas corpus, right to trial by jury, right to remain silent, freedom from double jeopardy, among many others.

It is proposed that a new judicial panel be established, independent of government, to review the effect of recent legislation on long-standing liberties, and to make recommendations as to how the impairment of liberties might be redressed. While the body's recommendations would not have the force of law, it is envisaged that it would be so prestigious that governments would find it impossible to ignore or sideline their pronouncements.

Read it here.

Taking Liberties

This paper from Peter Lilley MP outlines his concern that four fundamental pillars of freedom – jury trial, Double Jeopardy, Presumption of Innocence, and Habeas Corpus – are threatened by an unprecedented alliance between populism and modernizing zeal. He says that the net result will be to make the British people more vulnerable than ever to arbitrary action by the State. In his view, though it is important to tackle crime, sacrificing the liberties that protect the innocent will not help bring the guilty to justice.

Read it here.

Privatizing Access to Justice

Up to now, access to justice has been the privilege of the wealthy and the minority who are sufficiently poor to qualify for civil legal aid. Most other people had no access to civil justice, a factor which has brought the civil justice system into disrepute. The government is presently undertaking a major and long-overdue reform of the civil legal aid system in accordance with the Access to Justice Act 1999. Reforms enacted on 1 April 2000 abolish legal aid for most civil claims. Instead, it is expected that cases will be funded by the conditional fee system - popularly known as "no win, no fee". In this system the lawyer agrees with his client to charge an additional success fee if the claim is successful, but may charge nothing if the claim fails. It is an example of payment by result. These reforms effectively represent the privatisation of access to justice. The civil courts are increasingly accessible to anyone with a meritorious claim.

Read it here.

Silk Cut

Peter Reeve, himself an experienced lawyer, says that the whole process for selecting and appointing the UK's top barristers -- Queen's Counsel -- is both antiquated and against the public interest. The legal profession is one of the country's poshest but most effective trade unions, and its top echelons have proved skilled and successful at protecting their restrictive practices through the assaults of various governments. But their monopoly restricts the numbers of those with access to this spurious qualification, and in effect sets up a pricing ring that raises the costs of the court system and prices many people out of access to justice.

Read it here.

An Arresting Idea

At the centre of the problem for the Police Service is the fact that while the crime rate appears to rise inexorably, local authorities and central government have to operate within an economic framework of financial restraint. Resource allocation to the police therefore not only implies difficult decisions, but is further complicated because the business of evaluating the success of the police is an imprecise and highly subjective matter.

The Police Service with its monopolistic, un–competitive structure, operates all too easily in an environment where there is little or no yardstick for comparison against alternatives. This report looks at the different ways that crime is combatted. It also argues that a return to local policing is the way forward to fight the rising levels of crime with the major restructuring of the police service giving rise to greater service evaluation, improved efficiency and a more flexible response to the increasing market demand for choice.

Read the full paper.