The pitfalls of being human

Nick Cohen's article "Victims of zero tolerance" (24 July) makes valid points for this government to consider. It also makes me out to be an even weirder person than I am.

I have worked for 15 years in special-needs housing and I agree with Cohen: declaring war on drugs won't work. Norwich Labour Party and Norwich City Council also agree - I'm a member of both and I helped form these policies.

I worked for Ruth Wyner in Norwich Night Shelter for three years, and believe she must not go back to jail for her role in trying to establish an alternative to zero tolerance in both Norwich Night Shelter and the Cambridge day centre.

However, she was spending public money on vulnerable people, walking the impossible tightrope all carers do between confidentiality and openness, and all without proper sharing of information between management, trustees and police.

Parasites were dealing heroin on an industrial scale in the day centre. It had to stop. With stronger checks and balances, Ruth wouldn't have been jailed. The strength of Ruth's case is weakened by the refusal to accept that she, too, is human, and made mistakes.

Cohen says I went wild with an axe, smashing five police car windscreens. I wasn't wild. It was a protest I made 16 years ago. I let myself get arrested, pleaded guilty, paid compensation and costs. I regret what I did, and continue to make mistakes, but I admit them and learn from them.

If Ruth's skills can ever be harnessed for the benefit of the homeless again, this must apply to her, too.

Eamonn Burgess
Norwich