The Drugs Bill may be condemned for political point-scoring at the
expense of proper treatment for users, but in one respect it is
good news both for them and for practitioners: it would repeal
measures that threaten care workers in drugs and homelessness
projects with prosecution.
It was section 8 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 that sentenced
charity workers Ruth Wyner and John Brock to five years in jail in
1999 for allowing dealers to supply heroin at the Wintercomfort
homeless drop-in centre. They were freed the following year after
an outcry, even if months later the government perversely chose to
extend section 8 by amending it under the Criminal Justice and
Police Act 2001.
Fortunately, little effort has since been made to implement section
8 or its amendment, though the danger has always been there.
Practitioners will rightly rejoice if, as now seems likely, the
amendment at least is killed off. Sadly, the best to be said of the
Drugs Bill may be that, while it does little to promote treatment,
it does save workers from the threat of a prison sentence if they
try to give it.