Pubdate: Thu, 06 Jan 2000
Source: The News (UK)
Copyright: 2000 The News
Contact:  Hilsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England PO2 9SX
Fax: 01705 673363


A campaigner who wants cannabis legalised was yesterday cleared of 
possessing a UKP2 joint in a case which cost thousands of pounds of public 

Andrew Slater was arrested at a pro-drugs rally on Southsea Common last 
year called the Smokey Bears' Picnic.

The case would normally have been heard by magistrates but the 28-year-old 
instead used his right to elect for a crown court trial before a jury where 
he denied possessing cannabis.

The Home Office said the average cost of such a case was UKP2,700.

The jury at Portsmouth Crown Court cleared Mr Slater after hearing he could 
not be sure that the substance he had bought for UKP2 contained cannabis 
and that there was no police scientific evidence to establish the drug was 

Speaking after the case, Mr Slater stood by his belief that cannabis should 
be legalised and insisted his human rights had been breached.

He said: 'There is no reason for cannabis to be illegal. It is beneficial 
to health. It is the prohibition of the drug which causes the harm and that 
breaches our rights.

'I do believe my arrest was a contravention of human rights to hold a 
peaceful demonstration and to have the freedom of a belief.'

Before the demonstration in August last year, police in Portsmouth vowed to 
crack down on protesters and 50 officers policed the event which was 
attended by about 150 people.

David Reid, prosecuting, told the court PC Lee Colvin, then based at 
Southsea police station, had searched Mr Slater and found a roll-up cigarette.

Mr Reid said that during a police interview Mr Slater, of Hemel Hempstead, 
Hertfordshire, had admitted it contained cannabis resin.

PC Colvin, now a detective constable based in Southampton, told the court 
that he had asked Mr Slater why he was at the event and Mr Slater had 
replied that he had come there for the festival.

'The event promotes cannabis and the legalisation of it so I had a strong 
suspicion that cannabis was going to be taken there,' said DC Colvin.

'I asked him if he had any drugs on him and he said "no". He walked past me 
and said to a group of people there "they are trying to nick me for a reefer".

'I detained him and found on him a rolled reefer cigarette. Quite close by 
there was a member of the public with a video camera pointing at me.'

Giving evidence, Mr Slater denied that he had used the word reefer and 
added that he could not be sure the cigarette contained cannabis.

'I bought some stuff that was referred to me as a bit of weed for about 
UKP2. It was just a small brown lump when I bought it,' he said.

'I presumed it was cannabis. I crumbled it up and rolled it up with some 
tobacco. I didn't try to smoke it.'

Under cross-examination he added: 'I was trying to be a bit flash towards 
the policeman to be honest, saying that it was cannabis and I didn't care.

'I had earlier been offered the substance. I thought I would buy it there 
and then. I bought it in support of the campaign.'

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service stood by the decision to 
pursue the case.
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