Mark Thompson uses the resurfacing of an allegation that George Osborne once took cocaine to make a direct hit on the hypocrisy of British drugs laws.
Clearly many people in Britain seem to expect that a politician should resign for having taken a Class A drug, even if it was some time before they entered elected office. (Guido certainly seems to be salivating.) What is certainly a resigning offence is fraudulently claiming expenses you are not entitled to as a parliamentarian. So how does this criminal offence measure up against possessing a Class A drug?
Well, Lords Taylor and Hanningfield were sentenced to a year and nine months imprisonment respectively for fradulently claiming over £10,000 each. Both have now been sent home with electronic tags, having served a quarter of their sentences.
In comparison, the sentences for possession of a Class A drug range are a large fine or six months to seven years imprisonment. According to CPS sentencing guidelines “There will be very many cases where deprivation of liberty is both proper and expedient.”
As Mark points out, the maximum sentence for possession of Class A drugs (seven years) is the same as that for armed robbery of a small business. Indeed, wounding or inflicting serious bodily harm when “particularly grave injury or disfigurement results from a pre-meditated assault where a weapon has been used” has a sentencing range of two-four years imprisonment. Do our politicians really mean that possession (for personal use only) of cocaine can be a more serious offence that robbing a newsagent at knifepoint or smashing someone’s face up with a knuckleduster?
I don’t know about you, but if I was viciously attacked and left with a limp and scars for life I would feel rather miffed if a spoiled brat caught with some cocaine got a longer sentence than my attacker.