Drug policies are designed to punish individuals and groups for both the possession and supply of drugs.
In this post we’ll dive into what it means to ‘supply’ and consider if current drugs policies
are actually a breach of our human rights.
Are you ready?
Then let’s get into it.
Are Drug Policies a Breach of Human Rights?
Drug policies are rather tough in most countries, and for good reason.
That said, there is some question surrounding whether these rules are fair across the board.
Take a conspiracy to supply Class A drugs offence, for example.
This is considered a serious offence; the minimum sentence for conspiracy to supply class A drugs may be a simple fine, whilst the maximum sentence can include a hefty fine and a prison sentence.
Either way, do these sentences breach human rights in any way?
Let’s explore this further…
What Does Conspiracy to Supply Class A Drugs Mean?
‘Conspiracy’ means that the person in question has agreed to carry out a crime, in this case, to supply drugs.
‘Supply’ means transferring possession from one individual to another.
It can refer to selling, distributing, or providing a friend with drugs – whether money is exchanged or not.
To be charged for this offence, the accused person does not actually need to be directly supplying drugs. To be accused, the person needs only to be involved, or thought to be involved, in one stage of the supply.
A conspirator might have committed one or more of the following:
- Planning the drug-related crime.
- Selling class A drugs.
- Driving a vehicle, for the collection of class A drugs.
- Participating in the drug deals, whether as the courier, or another role in the supply chain.
What Sentences Are Given for Conspiracy to Supply Class A Drugs?
When a person is convicted the judge uses the definitive guideline for ‘Sentencing Council Drugs Offences’.
The guidelines focus on harm and accountability. The judge examines the person’s role in the offense, and the amount of class A drugs.
They will also look into mitigating factors.
When building a defence, solicitors may focus on extenuating circumstances, such as:
- If the individual was in danger or being led by others.
- The actual benefit that the person gained from the conspiracy.
- If the person understood the extent of the deal.
These types of factors can support an individual’s defence, helping the solicitor to negotiate a reduced sentence. Of course, not all drug-related offences are likely to be reduced. Some sentences even carry harsher punishments.
Are Drug Policies a Breach of Human Rights?
Many argue that drugs penalties can be a breach of human rights.
Back in the 1970s, when drug usage was increasing among young people, governments responded by introducing severe penalties for drug-related crimes. Though harsh punishments still exist in many countries, data shows that these tactics have not decreased drug trafficking or usage.
Under some circumstances, drug policies do appear to be a breach of human rights. The Human Rights Committee has stated that the death penalty should only be used for the most severe crimes – which does not include drug offenses. Regardless, drug offences are still punished using the death penalty, in over 30 countries.
Article 2 of the Human Rights Act is ‘the right to life’. The article states that no one, including government authorities, should attempt to bring an end to your life. As part of this Article, the government should take steps to protect an individual if their life is in danger.
Article 3 of the Human Rights Act states that no person should be subjected to degrading or inhumane treatment or punishment. Imposing the death penalty for drug offences can also be viewed as a breach of Article 3.
The right to liberty and security
The death penalty for drug-related crimes is the most obvious example of a human rights breach.
However, it’s not the only way that drug policies breach the Human Rights Act.
When it comes to drugs crimes, we have a huge issue with disproportion sentencing, and incarceration on mass. Drug policies focus on both punishment and incarceration.
People who are caught up in drug-related crimes can be given similar sentences to the most serious crimes, including murder and rape.
Incarceration for a long period can ruin an individual’s life; many question whether such prison sentences should be served for drug offenses.
According to Article 5 of the Human Rights Act, everyone has the right to freedom and liberty. Drug policies across the world are infringing on this human right, with long-term incarceration. In many instances, incarceration is also associated with dangerous conditions, that further violate people’s human rights.
Discrimination and the justice system
Article 14 of the Human Rights Act focuses on freedom from discrimination. The article means it’s illegal to discriminate of grounds of religion, race, sex, or disability. Sadly, we know that discrimination occurs at large in the justice system.
According to data from The Sentencing Project, ‘African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, and they are more likely to experience lengthy prison sentences’.
When discrimination occurs in the justice system, these instances go against Article 14 of the Human Rights Act. Discrimination is considered to be an underlying factor in many drug related sentences.
Drugs Policies and Human Rights | Final Thoughts
There are many different ways that drugs policies breach human rights. Individuals who are convicted of drug-related crimes must always seek out the best legal representation to preserve their rights and negotiate their sentence.
Failings in the justice system are often complex, and it’s incredibly difficult for an accused person to navigate their own way. With legal support, accused people have a better chance of a reduced sentence.
What do you think? Do you think that drugs policies can actually be a breach of human rights?
Let me know what you think in the comments section below!
Until next time,
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