Pubdate: Sun, 03 Mar 2013
Source: Scotland On Sunday (UK)
Copyright: 2013 The Scotsman Publications Ltd.
Author: Peter Hitchens
Page: 29


SUICIDE is a deep well of grief, reproach and guilt. But it is not an 
argument. When someone kills himself, we offer our deepest sympathy 
to those left behind, as I do to the family of Edward Thornber, the 
Manchester schoolboy who ended his own life after being caught with cannabis.

But we must not blame ourselves. In the end, those who take this sad 
step are the only ones responsible for it.

I know that some will accuse me of harshness and cruelty, even for 
discussing this. Please believe me when I say that this accusation is mistaken.

It is important that we do discuss it, rather than letting the 
argument be overwhelmed by emotion, however keenly felt.

I am disturbed by the portrayal of this case.

The story, as told in the papers, is full of signposts telling us 
what we ought to think. We are told the amount of the drug was small. 
So what? This is a drug usually sold in small quantities.

The suggestion is strongly made - in reports of the inquest - that 
the young man took his life because the police enforced the law 
against him. There may be actual direct evidence of this, but I have 
not seen it reported anywhere.

But what if this is so? Are the authorities to be paralysed into 
ceasing to enforce the law, by the fear that those they prosecute 
will commit suicide?

If a person dreads punishment so much, why would he freely commit the 
crime that leads to it? If we follow this rule, it will be impossible 
to prosecute anyone, for fear that the defendant will be so 
distressed that he takes his life when arrested and charged. Whatever 
caused this tragedy, it was not the fault of the police, who caught 
him, or of the officials who processed the case.

It is the job of the police to enforce the law, and it is the sad 
truth that Edward Thornber had knowingly broken that law not once but twice.

He knew cannabis was against the law. He had been detected with it 
once. He should have known that a conviction would threaten his 
freedom to travel to the US.

It is not the fault of the police that he still chose to take this 
risk - twice.

Most of us would be prepared to treat a single first offence as a 
silly mistake. But two?

The only criticism I would make of the police applies to their 
politically correct, defeatist leadership.

THIS whole affair was made possible by their unpublicised, sneaky, 
unofficial decriminalisation of cannabis by shirking their legal duty 
and not enforcing the law against it. This policy, never placed 
before Parliament, gives many young people the impression that our 
drugs law is wholly dead, when in fact it is only half dead.

If the law had been strongly and consistently applied during the past 
40 years, schoolboys would never take the terrible risk of toying 
with this dangerous, mind-bending substance, increasingly correlated 
with severe and irreversible mental illness.

And many lives, not just that of Edward Thornber and his family, 
would have been spared tragedies of many different kinds.

Weakness is not the same thing as compassion.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom