Mail on Sunday Comment for the Daily Mail
Chief Constables are not hired to change the law. They are hired to enforce it. Mike Barton, the Durham Police chief, needs to be sharply reminded of this.
Mr Barton has made something of a name for himself by saying he will no longer pursue drug users, even though they are breaking the law.
Now he plans to stop arresting so-called ‘low-level’ drug dealers. There is a sort of logic in this if you see drug offenders through the eyes of a social worker. But Mr Barton is not Chief Social Worker of Durham. He is Chief Constable.
We have laws against certain drugs because of the grave harm they do to those who use them and to their families. That harm radiates outwards into society, often in the form of thefts and burglaries.
We have laws against certain drugs because of the grave harm they do to those who use them and to their families
The rest of us must pay for the damage, and for the police, prisons and hospitals whose workloads are incessantly increased by drug abuse. We must pay for it, too, in the misery such people tend to inflict on their neighbours.
We also have laws against drugs because most of us feel that the young, especially, need to be deterred from choosing to follow this dangerous and self-destructive way of life.
Some people want to change these laws. In many cases it is because they think they should be free to do what they like, whatever the cost to others. A few businessmen and politicians hope to make profits or even raise taxes from the open sale of drugs which are now banned.
We also have laws against drugs because most of us feel that the young, especially, need to be deterred from choosing to follow this dangerous and self-destructive way of life
It is not for the police to join in this debate, or take sides in it.
We hire police chiefs, at very high salaries, to see that the law is enforced efficiently and intelligently in their areas. It may well be that the penalties now imposed on heroin dealers are too small, as Mr Barton complains. But that is an argument for increasing penalties, not for ceasing to arrest them.
If police chiefs want to soften the drug laws, they should resign, and stand for Parliament on that platform.
Then let us see how they fare among voters who endure the devastation wrought by drugs around them. Otherwise, they should stick to their day jobs. There is no shortage of crime for them to tackle.
Exploiting the elderly
The Mail on Sunday has halted an exceptionally nasty new form of exploitation. Our investigators caught one of Britain’s biggest funeral firms tricking vulnerable pensioners into revealing personal details and frightening them into buying costly funeral packages.
It is hard to think of a more cruel and cynical way of trying to make money. Yet it was going on unhampered, until we found out about it. Once again the unending need for a powerful independent Press is demonstrated. Without it, who would uncover such things?
Leading by example
Tomorrow the Queen and Prince Philip will have been married for 70 years. Their constancy, rare in these times, stands like a great rock in the midst of turbulent waters. They have been each other’s strength and stay, but also ours. As well as giving them our sincere and loyal congratulations, we offer our thanks for this steadfast example.