Wyner condemns drugs law change

Former charity worker Ruth Wyner, who was jailed after drug
dealing was discovered at her Cambridge drop in centre, has
condemned the extension of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as
“law-making on the hoof”.

An amendment to the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, which
received royal assent earlier this month, extended section 8 of the
act. Managers and occupiers of premises must now not only prevent
the production and supply of all controlled drugs but also their
administration or use. Previously they just had to stop cannabis

Wyner was one of the Cambridge Two, who were jailed in 1999
after being found guilty under section 8 of the act of knowingly
allowing drug dealers to supply heroin at Wintercomfort, a drop-in
centre for homeless people.

They were freed on bail in July 2000 but lost their appeal in
January, although they did not have to return to prison. Since
their arrest, they and others have campaigned for the act to be
amended to say “wilfully” committing an offence rather than
“knowingly”, arguing that the section was intended to catch club
and pub owners who might profit from a lax drugs policy, rather
than social care staff.

Wyner labelled the amendment “nonsense” and added: “The reality
is that government statistics show that 86 per cent of homeless
people use illegal drugs, in the main heroin. This reality hasn’t
been recognised. I don’t think it’s going to help the drug user
because the problem will be driven further underground.”

Wyner, who now works on a freelance basis for the prison sector,
added: “It is disgraceful that they haven’t consulted beforehand
with the agencies working with drug users and the treatment

Treatment agencies backed Wyner’s fears that staff working with
drug misusers run a greater risk of a criminal record after the

Release, a charity specialising in drug-related legal problems,
said that the clause means that where managers of premises know or
could reasonably believe that illicitly held controlled drugs were
being used on the premises, they will commit an offence if they do
not take reasonable steps to stop it.

Release’s deputy director Ian Robinson said the amendment “will
cause severe difficulties for agencies with drug users and
undermine efforts to address the problems of drug use and

Agencies providing supported housing to known, active drug users
will need to carefully consider the legality of continued service
provision, he warned.

However, the Home Office said that the amendment was designed to
tackle crack houses, which were a “particular policing

A spokesperson said that the amendment will not come into force
until police, other government departments and the treatment and
voluntary sector have been consulted on guidelines to ensure that
those working in the treatment and voluntary sectors are not

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