Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Magistrate reprimanded for expressing view about cannabis

The Daily Mail has taken up the story of a magistrate in Manchester who, so it is reported, has been pressured to resign despite an official investigation concluding that a reprimand was appropriate  - Magistrate is forced to quit ... for telling drug dealer in dock how cannabis had killed her brother.

When sentencing an offender for a drugs related offence, the magistrate spoke to the offender about her brother's addiction and subsequent death.  This prompted a complaint which was eventually duly investigated by the Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC) and. on 17th June 2013, a short statement of the outcome was issued.  Precisely why the outcome of the official investigation did not conclude this matter is a matter for some concern.  Of what value is that process if it is true that others take it upon themselves to act on their own opinions?

Constitutional Reform Act 2005 gives the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice joint responsibility for the system for considering and determining complaints about the personal conduct of all judicial office holders in England and Wales and some judicial office holders who sit in Tribunals in Scotland and Northern Ireland.  The OJC was set up on the 3rd April 2006, to handle these complaints and provide advice and assistance to the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice in the performance of their joint role.

The Telegraph 24th June also reported on this story but there is no mention of the magistrate being pressured to resign at any local interview - A magistrate has been reprimanded for highlighting the dangers of cannabis ...

The dangers of cannabis:

Opinion varies considerably in this area.  The NHS has published The Dangers of Cannabis

The law:

Controlled drugs are classified under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

In 2008, the Labour government reclassified cannabis as Class B - see Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) Order 2008.  (The history of its classification is of interest).   In 2005, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs published their view of cannabis which was against the idea of reclassification. 

Sentencing Guidelines for Drug Offences are issued by the Sentencing Council and see Law and Lawyers 27th April 2011 for a look at the consultation which led to the latest guidelines.

Drugs are at the heart of certain other offences such as Road Traffic Act 1988 s4 (Driving, or being in charge, when under the influence of drink or drugs).

In December 2012, the Home Affairs Committee recommended a Royal Commission to examine drug policy.  A response from one Home Office Minister was that the government would not legalise cannabis.

Other Links:

Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs


Daily Mail 30th June - It cost one brave JP her job ........

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