Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Confusion reigns

We live in unusual times. Whilst the Guardian publishes apologias for Sepp Blatter, the place to go for hard-hitting criticism of the Tory government is, er, the Daily Telegraph.

Well, Theresa May's Psychoactive Substances Bill is a classic of incompetence. Matthew Scott comments:
... the Government seems to have decided that banning 500 substances is not enough. It must ban almost everything that gives pleasure.
And what a ban. Of all the many idiotic, ill thought out and pointless laws ever passed, this would be the one of the silliest. And its draftsmanship would make the asinine Dangerous Dogs Act look like the magisterial 1925 Law of Property Act.
The production, supply, offer to supply, import and export of any “psychoactive substances” will carry potential 7 year gaol sentences.
I suppose they have a point. The terrible scourge of nutmeg needs sweeping from our streets and off our custard tarts. Then we have to outlaw curries (not to mention rye bread). I mean, think of all those chilli addicted zombies, exploited by the cruel curry pushers to be found lurking on street corners, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting at the moment they are most vulnerable - that mysterious time known as "after the pub."

The sheer madness is that the Bill would ban everything unless an exception is made. This breaches the usual legal principle that a person may do anything that is not specifically prohibited by law. Instead people may not consume anything with psychoactive properties unless specifically permitted by law. And so the drafters of this legislation have to dream up exemptions to the blanket ban (coffee, alcohol and tobacco, for example), but they are guaranteed to miss something because the list of substances that "affects the person's mental functioning or emotional state" is virtually endless.

And the age of romance is well and truly murdered:
What stronger emotional response is there than that produced by the beautiful scent of roses delivered to the woman you love? Sorry, that very emotional response is enough to engage Section 3, and if you happen to hand them to her outside a school, or worse still arrange for someone under the age of 18 to deliver them, the Court is obliged by Section 6 to treat those facts as “aggravating features” for the purpose of sentencing. And don't think you could avoid the law by giving her perfume instead of flowers: the esters and oils in perfume are designed to seduce, which is of course an emotional response.
The legislation is lunacy and runs against basic Conservative principles. (As does the even stranger decision to force housing associations to sell their own private property against their will at a discount. At least with privatisation the state actually owned what it was flogging.)

Scott concludes,
The Bill is a textbook example of bad legislation, It is unnecessary, incomprehensible, largely unenforceable, and, by encouraging professional criminals into a new area of business it is likely to prove entirely counterproductive.  
It seems that the hubris of a massive victory achieved with all of 37% of the votes has sent the Tories crazy. No, hang on. Utterly bonkers.

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