I have followed the saga about Henry Mostyn, the pupil found with a small amount of drugs on him, with puzzled bewilderment, writes OccupyTheInns.
It has been summed up most in the outrage of the truly awful Daily Mail, a newspaper I do my level best to keep a wide berth from. What a fuss about nothing! None of the coverage of this matter has even bothered to ask one simple question: what would have happened in this sorry affair if drugs were legalised? The answer, of course, is that there would not have been a scandal in the first place.
Sadly drugs remain illegal in this country, forcing talented young people like Henry Mostyn to hide – and be punished for – taking substances that are in many cases no more harmful than a few pints of lager. The situation is made worse for the high-achieving, often creative types who pursue careers at the Bar of England and Wales...
The relationship between creativity and drugs is a historic one, spanning centuries of writers and musicians. Like Bill Clinton, I confess to having dabbled in weed in my student days. Who knows, I might still enjoy a toke from time to time or a little something to help me appreciate the music a little more when I am DJing. Is there a reason for creative types entering the professional world to suddenly restrict themselves to the cheesy Friday night din of the pub rather than seek alternative pleasures?
As practitioners of law – a law under which drugs are banned – we barristers are often seen as distinct from the rest of the population on this thorny issue of illegal substances. Is it right that you prosecute a criminal on a drugs charge then take drugs recreationally that evening yourself? There are very real moral issues associated with this dilemma. However, having considered them at length, I believe that any blame must lie with a morally unjust law, not barristers who elect to break it.
History is littered with examples of law lagging behind morality. With the benefit of hindsight, those who break unjust laws, such as Martin Luther King, are later remembered as heroes. Of course, Henry Mostyn doesn’t fall into this category, but by refusing to conform with this country’s ridiculous ban on drug use, which leads to suffering throughout the world as the black market flourishes, he is making a powerful statement.
Even if you disagree with the arguments I have put forth, I urge you to also consider the fact that professionals should be allowed to have a private life outside work where they should be permitted to choose freely how they spend their time.
Does a surgeon who enjoys re-enacting historic battles at the weekend have to share the bloody details with the patients whose lives he tries to save come Monday morning? Does a pilot who is attempting to reduce his family's carbon footprint have to tell his passengers about the recycling he has done over the weekend as he cruises at 10,000 feet? Does a barrister who enjoys using small amounts of recreational drugs have to tell the courtroom about what he did at his favourite club night the previous Friday? My submission is that he or she does not.
OccupyTheInns graduated from the BPTC last summer, and was called to the Bar in July 2011. There's more from OccupyTheInns here.