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6 December 2021

The government is bringing in new laws to target people who take Class A drugs

Taking away someone’s passport is a pretty sinister act however you slice it.

By Stephen Bush

The government will bring in new laws to target wealthy professionals who take Class A drugs, with police handed powers to go through dealers’ phones and warn clients about their drug use, while people convicted of drug use could lose their driving licences and passports.  

There are two points worth making here: the first is that taking away someone’s passport is a pretty sinister act however you slice it. As an apparently indefinite punishment it is, in and of itself, a troubling lever for any government to reach for regardless of the crime.  

The second is that cuts to the criminal justice system and front-line policing mean that, as it stands, a large number of criminal offences in the United Kingdom have been de facto decriminalised. Unless you are speeding or planning on a little light murder, your chances of being caught are pretty slim.  

Greater enforcement against “middle-class drug use” is notoriously difficult anyway, let alone for a state that can’t, as it stands, reliably solve easily detectable crimes. And that, of course, is the political thinking at play here: that eye-catching announcements that trigger a big philosophical debate about British drugs policy and draconian punishment distract from a state of affairs where a range of crimes – from online fraud to car theft, to essentially every form of sexual offence – carry a relatively low risk of punishment, and where antisocial behaviour can take place with impunity.

[See also: We need answers to the drugs debate, but we shouldn’t look to charismatic outliers to find them]

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