Letter published in the Evening News, Norwich (UK): October 9 1998
Author : pp Jack Girling



His Honour Judge Paul Downes who branded cannabis as "dangerous" has now called on legalisation campaigners to take a close look after the latest case involving the drug. (Evening News, October 4.)

The judge was dealing with the case of a man convicted of burglary, theft and possession of a Class A drug.

The newspaper report said that the man "had been put into care at the age of seven...started taking drugs from the age of 14, starting off with cannabis, graduating to solvents and amphetamines and by the age of 24 moving on to heroin, methadone and cocaine."

Where did his problems really start,with cannabis, in care, or before that?

Clearly his crimes were due to his need to get cash to buy hard drugs from the illegal market where prices are high and quality low.

It would do well to remember that all these problems occur under the present system of prohibition.

To step from this man's problems to such a generalisation that cannabis is a dangerous drug is indeed a giant leap.

Judge Downes must have read my last letter about cannabis.

May I now take this opportunity of challenging him.

If he, or anybody else, would like to organise the venue we would be pleased to bring along experts in cannabis to testify before him, that pure cannabis is non-addictive, does not lead to hard drugs, is not toxic, does not a-motivate and does not significantly detrimentally effect motor or cognitive skills.

Yours sincerely,

Jack Girling, Chairman of the CLCIA, Norwich

Letter published in the Evening News (Norwich): October 4 1998
Author: Judge Paul Downes

I write to answer the comments of the chairman of the Campaign to Legalise Cannabis, as expressed in a letter to the Evening News on September 24.

I make the following points:

*Cannabis is classified in law as a dangerous drug

* The court of appeal sentencing precedents indicate that imprisonment is both appropriate and necessary for those who engage in the serious crime of supplying cannabis to others.

* I agree that some people are more particularly vulnerable to the drug than others because of psychological difficulties, but the courts experience is that it is much more than a "tiny minority" as suggested.

* The "qualifications" of the court which are questioned by the campaign are simply experience.

The experience of the courts, which I suspect is rather more extensive than that of the campaign, is that people supplied with the drug frequently resort to other forms of crime in order to fund the use of the drug, and have their lives ruined by it.

Secondly, that it is frequently the case that cannabis users later become the users of harder drugs.

It seems to me that in terms of experience, the campaign is the organisation least qualified to judge whether the public interest requires either the prosecution or the sentencing of convicted offenders.

Judge Paul Downes
Norwich Combined Court

Letter published in the Evening News, Norwich, UK: Sept 24 1998

We read with dismay the comments of Judge Paul Downes when sentencing a Great Yarmouth man to 15 months in prison for supplying cannabis. (Evening News, September 19)

He said: "The court takes the view that it [cannabis] is a dangerous drug can cause endless problems for people who get addicted to it."

We wonder what his qualifications regarding cannabis are, as he seems to disagree with all the Government-sponsored reports on cannabis produced over the last 100 years, including the most recent.

These conclude that cannabis is not dangerous and is not addictive.

A tiny minority of users may experience problems related to their psychological predilections or physical allergies, but to suggest that the majority of users get "endless problems" must be seen, in the light of the experts reports, as complete nonsense.

The evidence shows that cannabis is safer than almost everything we eat or drink, from food and alcohol to prescribed or over-the-counter medications.

Any sentence based upon wrongful speculation or misinformation that cannabis suppliers harm the users, must surely be wrong.

The prosecution of cannabis offenders is in neither their interest or the public interest

If is a gross waste of public money, and prison sentences just increase the costs.

yours sincerely,

Jack Girling

JUDGE'S CANNABIS WARNING ARTICLE published in the Evening News, Norwich, UK: September 19 1998

A Norwich crown court judge has branded cannabis resin as a dangerous and addictive drug which causes users endless problems.

Judge Paul Downes made his remarks yesterday as he jailed small-time Great Yarmouth dealer Ian Fox to 15 months in prison.

The court heard that unemployed Fox, who had smoked the drug for 20 years and believes it should be legalised, started dealing to finance his own use.
Fox, 39, of Stephenson Close, Yarmouth, admitted three charges of supplying the drug from a friend's home in the town between last December and April.

His friend, mother of four Samantha Hume, 27, was ordered to do 100 hours community service, after she admitted possessing the drug and allowing her Clarendon Close home to be used for its supply.

Judge Downes, who was sitting with two magistrates, told Fox, "It is quite clear that you take the view that cannabis should not be illegal."
"Whatever your views on that, it is illegal and if you are found in possession of it you are breaking the law."

"The court takes the view that it is a dangerous drug and can cause endless problems for people who get addicted to it."

Prosecutor Katherine Moore said that police had been watching Hume's home, which they raided on April 9.

They found some cannabis resin.

Fox admitted he had been dealing, making about 45 pounds a week, but the exact amounts in the transactions were disputed.

David Wilson, for Fox, said he had 10,000 pounds worth of debts from his cafe business and would sometimes go without food for several days to pay for his cannabis habit. He had started supplying the drug to finance his own use.
Marcus Pearce, for Hume, said "She has learned her lesson, she has learned it the hard way."

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