The following are legal cases supported and assisted by the Drug Equality Alliance, testing our legal arguments in the courts, click on the name for detailed info on each case:
Casey Hardison is a US citizen currently serving a 20 year sentence in the UK for the manufacture of LSD and other psychedelic-type drug and a founding member of the Drug Equality Alliance.
Casey Hardison has today
submitted an appeal against conviction at Lewes Crown Court
based on evidence that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is being
mal-administered by the Home Secretary. Whilst government admits
that alcohol and tobacco cause more death and harm than all controlled drugs combined, Hardison is serving a 20 year
sentence and the former Chancellor and director of British
American Tobacco Kenneth Clark serves in the shadow cabinet.
In 2006 the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said that this fundamental inequality is "based on historical and cultural factors and lack[s] a consistent and objective basis". Shortly thereafter the government confirmed this in response to the Science and Technology Committee's 2006 report Drug classification: making a hash of it? in which they said: "The distinction between legal and illegal substances is not unequivocally based on pharmacology, economic or risk benefit analysis. It is ... based in large part on historical and cultural precedents."
The government went on to say that "a classification system that applies to legal as well as illegal substances would be unacceptable to the vast majority of people who use, for example alcohol, responsibly and would conflict with deeply embedded historical tradition and tolerance of consumption of a number of substances that alter mental functioning". Hardison's appeal questions why that tolerance is not extended to the equally or less-harmful psychedelic-type drugs of his indictment.
In 2007 a paper by Professor David Nutt, the current ACMD Chairman, and Professor Colin Blakemore, the former Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, appeared in The Lancet entitled Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse. This paper describes the first scientific ranking of the relative harmfulness of the most commonly used drugs and fatally undermines Government’s subjective rational for their arbitrary administration of the Act’s classification system.
“The current classification system has evolved in an unsystematic way from somewhat arbitrary foundations with seemingly little scientific basis. […] Our findings raise questions about the validity of the current Misuse of Drugs Act classification, despite the fact that it is nominally based on an assessment of risk to users and society. The discrepancies between our findings and current classifications are especially striking in relation to psychedelic type drugs. Our results also emphasise that the exclusion of alcohol and tobacco from the Misuse of Drugs Act is, from a scientific perspective, arbitrary. We saw no clear distinction between socially acceptable and illicit substances”. (The Lancet 369: 1047-1053)
The government has since stated that their "policy is to regulate drugs which are classified as illegal or controlled through the 1971 act, and to regulate the use of alcohol and tobacco separately". Hardison believes that "this inequality of treatment make my convictions under the Misuse of Drugs Act unsafe, and I am seeking the court's protection. This executive abuse of power thwarts the policy and purpose of the Misuse of Drugs Act and has provided a morally unacceptable foundation for the exercise of jurisdiction over me".
Should Hardison's appeal succeed, government will be forced to prohibit alcohol and tobacco equally, or regulate the possession, production and commerce of dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs in a rational and objective manner.
Hardison states "this unequal treatment of drugs and persons who produce, trade and use them has caused immense harm to society. The under-regulation of alcohol and tobacco activities has contributed to over a million deaths in the United Kingdom alone and the over-regulation of the equally or less-harmful 'controlled' drug activities has criminalised millions of otherwise law-abiding persons, clogged our courts and prison system, and fuelled an unregulated black market governed only by the law of unintended consequences".
Hardison's appeal could be the solution to prison overcrowding, with the potential to free up the spaces currently occupied by 14,000 non-violent drug offenders immediately, with an estimated cost-saving of £490 million each year, and the potential to tax a fully-regulated market.
Indeed, the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit has estimated that the current unregulated drug market is worth £4-8 billion in taxes annually, and Transform Drug Policy Foundation believes that a fully-regulated drug market would eliminate the five types of crime engendered by the current prohibitionist regime:
Organised international criminal gangs; domestic organised criminal gangs; acquisitive crime; street sex-workers; and offences against the prohibition regime.
Hardison believes his appeal is in the public interest.
The submission originally sent to the Court of Appeal on the 13th of August has now instead been submitted to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) who have promised to expedite Casey's application. Should the CCRC find that there are sufficient grounds to reopen the case, the Court of Appeal will be directed accordingly.
After being told by the Court of Appeal that they wouldn't extend jurisdiction to hear his second application for leave to appeal against his convictions and sentences based on new evidence and new argument without a referral from the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), Casey applied to the CCRC. Ultimately, though, the CCRC was found wanting. They made several errors of law, refused to address the new argument or evidence in any detail, conflated his new common law argument with the old human rights argument, resorted to ad hominem attacks on Casey's character to allege that he was just "trying it on", when all he wants is for a properly empowered Court to squarely address the inequalities of treatment under law he suffers. Thankfully the CCRC is a public body subject to Judicial Review by the Courts, who can correct errors of law, establish the facts to be taken into account and direct the CCRC to consider his application properly. Accordingly, Casey has chosen this option. See the Statement of Facts document below as a guide to his arguments, trial, appeals, judicial reviews, discoveries and the CCRC process that will bring you right up to date.
Finally, please consider donating stamps and/or money to help Casey with his legal funds. His prison address is:
Casey William Hardison A6078AJ
Casey Hardison - CCRC Provisional Statement of Reasons, March 2010 (PDF)
Casey Hardison - CCRC Letter Before Claim for Judicial Review, 1st June 2010 (PDF)
The Drug Equality Alliance is providing legal assistance to disabled medical-cannabis user Edwin Stratton, 43, of Leyton in East London, who seeks to achieve equal protection and equal rights for all users of equally-harmful drugs, in the High Court.
In May of 2008, Edwin was at home when a fire broke out in a neighbouring wine bar requiring the evacuation of tenants in adjacent properties. In the process, police discovered the cannabis plants Edwin was growing for his medical condition.
Fully co-operating with police, Edwin admitted the fact that he privately grew cannabis plants in his home, in order to combat his medical condition. Edwin rejected a police caution, reasoning that the denial of property rights in cannabis is discriminatory under the Human Rights Act 1998. This is understood in light of the analogous comparison, that identical property rights are not denied to people who choose to brew the equally or more harmful drug, alcohol.
On his refusal to accept a caution and thus acknowledge culpability, Edwin was charged with production of a controlled drug of Class C, by another, in contravention of section 4 (1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
Edwin attended court on October 1st, 2008, accompanied by Darryl Bickler of the Drug Equality Alliance acting as his "McKenzie Friend". Edwin declined to plead, and instead moved to quash the indictment as an abuse of process, using the "Mackeson" application format. The Magistrate properly declined jurisdiction and adjourned proceedings, giving Edwin leave to apply to the High Court for permission for Judicial Review.
Edwin's full legal claim for Judicial Review, including relevant evidence, may be downloaded from the link below. Should you wish to download this documentation; a discretionary contribution is invited, which can be remitted via PayPal.
Edwin's application for permission to apply for Judicial Review has been refused on the grounds that :
This refusal however contains several alarming misunderstandings and errors of law, as summarised below:
We strongly believe that Edwin's application has not been properly considered or understood. Particularly shocking is the assumption of a defence of medical necessity, presumably on no grounds other than prejudice due to Edwin's disability, without making a reasonable effort to consider the core arguments put forward in the application which have nothing to do with medical necessity. Edwin has thus requested an oral hearing to address these glaring issues.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has surprisingly declared that it would oppose further adjournment pending the oral hearing for Edwin Stratton's application for permission to apply for Judicial Review, effectively seeking to bypass the proper legal process.
Edwin is contesting this on the grounds that to engage the committal process at this stage would be an error of law that would fatally undermine his legitimate right to due process with respect to his Abuse of Process application. It is not for the Magistrates’ Court to determine the merits of the case or the likelihood of success as seemingly the CPS are inviting them to do.
In any event, it is our view that Edwin's application was incorrectly initially dismissed because the court did not spot the CPS’s mistakes - firstly the High Court and the CPS appear to believe that the Judicial Review is for a review of the decision to prosecute - when it is not, it is a Judicial Review of the magistrates court’s willingness to process the charges by standing Stratton for trial. Secondly the CPS concerns itself with the fact that medical defences and medical necessity are not valid given the authoritative case law on that subject, however Edwin’s case does not seek to rely on those arguments whatsoever - the substance of the application relating to the maladministration of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the resulting alleged discrimination was not addressed at all. Read Edwin's full submission below:
Edwin Stratton - Defendant’s submission contesting the application from the CPS to commit the defendant for trial before the question of Abuse of Process can be determined by the High Court - Waltham Forest Magistrates’ Court
The Magistrates' Court has rejected the CPS' objection (see 2nd April update above), and adjourned until 21st of May to allow the High Court to fix a date for the oral hearing where Edwin will get a chance to rectify the errors of law made by the Judge in initially refusing his application for permission to apply for Judicial Review.
The refusal to grant permission for Judicial Review was a
disappointing result from the High Court, but this is not the
end of the line! The judge declared that an alleged abuse of
power on the part of the Home Secretary was not 'justiciable' in
this case, which means he believes the matter is not subject to
adjudication in the courts.
However, we disagree, because we consider that the Home Secretary's decisions are bound by the rules of Administrative and Public Law, and we hold that an abuse of power is actionable by the judiciary. Case law bears this view out.
This difference of opinion raises important legal points, i.e., is the matter justiciable or not? To clarify this point, we considered making an appeal against the Judgment, but discovered there is no appeal available for this type of case. Curiously the High Court determined that the Magistrates' Court ought to determine this matter. This will necessarily need to be determined in that court in this case, however a point of law arises from this judgement which will be re-visited by a competent court in due course.
Edwin Stratton has been granted a hearing to argue that any prosecution of him under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 would constitute an Abuse of Process. This hearing will take place at Snaresbrook Crown Court on the 26th of April 2010. Mr. Stratton will be represented by barrister Ben Cooper. In the event that the Abuse of Process argument is rejected by the judge, a criminal trial will be scheduled for the following day.
Edwin Stratton's case was heard at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the initial Abuse of Process argument was refused, after which a criminal trial ensued. The decision was made by Edwin and his "McKenzie Friend" Darryl Bickler to enter a Not Guilty plea but to urge the jury to convict anyway, the reason for this being that it gives Edwin the possibility to bring the case to the Court of Appeal. Edwin could have chosen to go for jury nullification by urging the jury not to convict him, however this would not have set a precedent that anyone else could rely on, if successful it would have simply got him acquitted but would be of no use to anyone else who might find themselves in the same position in the future.
In convicting the judge warned that a custodial sentence would have to be considered since mitigation had been forfeited as the defendant had pleaded Not Guilty. The judge also stated that mitigation for medical use would not apply since the defendant stated that he enjoyed smoking cannabis! The defence contested the implication that medical use must necessarily be unpleasant. Sentencing will be in 4 weeks.
Edwin put on an excellent performance in Court in very difficult circumstances and was even praised by the judge, who stated "Mr Stratton's written arguments were well presented and his oral submissions eloquent".
Edwin Stratton was today given a suspended sentence and a £500 fine at Snaresbrook Crown Court. As planned, we will now take the case to the Court of Appeal. Edwin decided to stand by his principles right to the end and made it clear that he did not feel any remorse for his actions, risking a custodial sentence for forfeiting this mitigating factor. The judge appeared sympathetic and even praised Edwin for his "impeccable character".
Read more in the article below:
Following the failure of the UK courts to recognise the issue of maladministration of the Misuse of Drugs Act as "justiceable", Edwin is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights to declare that the current administration of the UK Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 violates his rights. He additionally submits that he was subjected to an unfair trial process.
The Drug Equality Alliance is currently supporting and assisting Alan Taylor in his challenge to the magistrates' court to stay the proceedings (or to ask the high court to rule this). He asserts that the court would cause an abuse of it's process should it apply the (allegedly) maladministered Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to him.
Alan is a local secondary school science teacher of some ten years standing, judged by Ofsted to be "excellent". He has been suspended from work for many months prior to being charged with the possession and production of a small amount of cannabis for personal use (and now remains suspended pending the outcome of the legal process). Many months before Alan was charged, the police chose to make multiple representations to his school, and the education authority about their suspicions concerning his involvement with the production of a few cannabis plants in his home. This effectively forced the school to take action, depriving the school and its students of a teacher. The current rules governing such pre-charge disclosures by the police came about as a response to the terrible acts perpetrated by Ian Huntley, although Huntley was known to the police as a dangerous man, no clear mandate was available to the police at the time to warn the school prior to the murders being committed. Police disclosures to employers are now legal if there is genuine concern that someone might pose a serious risk to children (by their suspected propensity to engage in abusive, violent or sexual behaviour towards children). It is envisaged that in these particular cases the interests of child protection may outweigh a suspect's automatic right to privacy and data protection. Given that there is no suggestion in this case of any supply of drugs, nor any question as to Alan's professionalism at school, the police's actions are, in our view, entirely disproportionate. The extension of these powers into the realm of peaceful drug activities which were in the private domain, especially prior to the individual in question being formally charged, represents a worrying trend, and one which Alan finds deeply offensive. He asserts that even if someone is known to the police to have private interests in cannabis, this should not be grounds for disciplinary matters in respect of their employment or housing without good reasons relating to their conduct.
The organisation Liberty has indicated that the police
disclosures of their suspicions to the school and education
authority in this case are challengeable in law. We are pursuing
this issue with formal complaints and possible legal action. In
terms of the criminal matter the essence of the claim is to
assert the primacy of Parliament and the rule of law, and to
protect these principles from abuse by the people who have been
entrusted with administering the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The
Government refuses to regulate the drugs alcohol and tobacco on
equal terms with other equally or less harmful substances in
spite of growing evidence that this distinction is entirely
arbitrary. This is submitted to give rise to a discrimination
suffered by Alan which is the subject of the protections
afforded under Article 14 of the Human Rights Act 1998 on the
grounds of property and legal status, arising from the express
statutory duty created by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and
common law duties of fairness and equal protection. Other
Articles of the Human Right Act 1998 are also violated in tandem
with the discrimination. Alan asserts that this discrimination
is both irrational and illegal.
Alan says: "I fully support the aims of The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, who could disagree with the need to reduce the harm done by all drugs to individuals and society? I also agree with the Act's stated aim that the measures to achieve this should be based upon evidence, and evolve as the evidence evolves. Unfortunately successive governments have completely failed to even attempt this, instead choosing electoral advantage, supporting the production and supply of the drugs that the majority uses whilst simultaneously demonising equally or less harmful drugs that a minority uses and dehumanising their users. The consequences of this are often devastating to the lives of individuals, their families and to society, fatally undermining the credibility of any drugs education message and leaving the young vulnerable to ignorance, mythology and predatory criminals. Even if prohibition worked (and the evidence is overwhelming that it doesn't) it would be debatable whether it justified the human rights abuses perpetrated in its name. Cannabis users generally cause far less harm to themselves and others than alcohol drinkers and yet are compelled not only to risk arrest, prosecution and imprisonment, but also to endure the risk of dealing with criminal elements, as well as being forced to potentially compromise their health due to contaminants and exposure to products of unknown strength or origin - I sought to avoid all this by trying to grow a tiny crop myself. The Government recently refused to raise the price of alcohol, so as not to punish responsible drinkers - why is this same principle not extended to users of other, equally safe or equally harmful recreational drugs? Is any drug safe enough to be distributed by criminals?"
Alan Taylor - CPS's response to skeleton defence arguments (please note: this file is just over 4MB in size as it consists of scanned pages of the document rather than plain text so it may take a few minutes to download)
We are pleased to report that Alan Taylor was successful in his application made before the Magistrates' Court on Friday 15th of May 2009 to adjourn the proceedings. District Judge Lloyd ruled that the Court would desist from pursuing the matter until a determination was made at the High Court in respect of the case of Edwin Stratton who is due to have his permissions hearing on the 1st of July 2009, the outcome of which will have strong implications for Alan's case (due to the agreed similarities of the legal arguments). After a pre-hearing discussion with Darryl Bickler of the Drug Equality Alliance and following consideration of Alan's reply to the CPS's submission seeking to refuse the adjournment, Mr Bakker of the CPS (a solicitor with higher court advocacy rights) recognised that Alan was not prepared to be diverted from this cause, and that Edwin's case is still very much alive. Having heard arguments from both sides and given Alan's determination to exercise his right of appeal against any refusal for an adjournment (on the basis that to hear this type of Abuse of Process argument would be a decision made outside of the magistrates' legal jurisdiction), the court conceded that a refusal would be pointless given that such an appeal would be heard in the High Court anyway.
The District Judge seemed concerned that delays were not in the interests of justice and that prosecution costs were likely to be high. Both Alan and his "McKenzie friend" Darryl Bickler were bemused by these points - all of the delays in this case (and in the case of Edwin Stratton) are due to the slowness of the Court proceedings. The costs to the public are lower than might be expected given that the defence has not applied for legal aid in either matter, and the costs incurred by the prosecution arise because of the maladministration of law, and the failure of some of the CPS and court lawyers to read and/or understand Taylor's and Stratton's cases fully. Alan made an impassioned speech about the public interest issues surrounding this case and made the point that nearly everyone is a recreational drug user of some kind be it alcohol, tobacco, caffeine or cannabis, emphasising the importance of equal treatment and equal protection under law.
The Court allowed an adjournment until the 10th of July to allow the High Court to hear the application for permission for Judicial Review of Edwin Stratton, before assessing if they will be able to commit Mr Taylor for trial. This historic challenge continues in London on the 1st of July in the High Court at the Royal Courts of Justice, where Edwin Stratton will demonstrate his entitlement to have a full Judicial Review of the claims raised in his application.
A hearing was held in the Magistrates' Court on the 10th of July in which the District Judge, acting in reliance upon the initial documentation received from the High Court in Edwin Stratton's case, determined that the Magistrate's Court was the correct jurisdiction to consider the Abuse of Process argument that Alan has presented as his defence. This will be heard during the two days of court time that we requested to present this claim fully (7th and 8th of October 2009). Whilst the Drug Equality Alliance consider that the proper forum for such an adjudication would rightly be the High Court or the Supreme Court, nevertheless, given the directions from the High Court it would appear as if the Magistrates' Court in Wigan will be the first venue to consider this complex matter alleging abuse of governmental power at the highest level.
Alan Taylor has made it clear to this court that his case is not the same matter as that considered non-justiciable by the High Court in Edwin Stratton's case. Whilst the submissions are indeed similar (although vastly improved in Alan's case), it is vital to appreciate that the issues that the High Court concerned themselves with in Stratton's case are not the substance of Alan's application (or even Stratton's for that matter). The High Court has failed to grasp that the Abuse of Process claim does not contest the validity of the primary legislation or the settled will of Parliament, which would, if it so did, indeed make the matter non-justiciable under the common law claims (although not in terms of incompatibility with the Human Rights Act 1998). This point on justiciability has now been expanded at length in the improved submissions that Alan has already served upon the Magistrates' Court and the CPS. The documentation is now available below and includes an improved human rights document. The parties to the matter also received a CD Rom with a database of cited cases and the various high level reports cited.
We now await the formal response from the CPS which is ordered by the Judge to be received by the defendant and the Court by 18 September 2009.
On the first day of the Abuse of Process hearing, the Magistrates' Court having obtained the High Court Judgment for the Edwin Stratton case before even Edwin himself had received it, served this document and asked in what way Alan's case was different. We pointed out some issues on the spot (see our appeal to the Crown Court) and the Court retired until day 2. On the second day the Court refused to accept new evidence put forward by the defence detailing why the Abuse of Process hearing ought to proceed and chose to strike out the abuse claim hearing on the grounds that the two cases were indistinguishable. This was then followed by a trial with no evidence on the facts of the case being presented by the defence, and as a result Alan Taylor was convicted, fined and ordered to pay all the costs of the prosecution. Alan will now appeal to the Crown Court.
Following his conviction by the Magistrates' Court, Alan Taylor has today submitted his appeal to the Crown Court on the basis that the pre-trial hearing at the Magistrates' Court was unfair and denied him the protection of the Court from a governmental abuse of power.
Alan Taylor's appeal was today dismissed at Liverpool Crown Court. The appeal was struck out on the grounds that it appeared to the Court (incorrectly in our submission) that the case sought to challenge the sovereign will of Parliament and that the Court does not have jurisdiction to hear it. There appears to be confusion with all of the courts to date regarding to a point of law which would determine the correct jurisdiction to hear this matter, further action will now be taken by the Drug Equality Alliance to clarify this point of law with the relevant judicial bodies.
Alan has applied under Part 64 of the Criminal Procedure Rules for the Crown Court to "state the case" (seek the opinion of) the High Court. He has asked for the High Court to step in and state an opinion on the following crucial point of law:
"If a Minister by using or failing to use the powers afforded to him or her by an Act of Parliament causes the law to operate in a fashion which violates fundamental common law principles counter to the objects and purposes of that Act, and that such acts or omissions lead to criminal sanctions being applied to a defendant which are arguably incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998, would such a claim be judiciable by the superior courts?"
I relation to this application, two documents have been submitted: