|Issue 10 - February 1973|
Branch and the Drug Squad are the two branches of the police force
whose jobs are almost entirely political - motivated to keep society
clean for the politicians.
Illegal drugs are considered 'politically' dangerous and suspected offenders are watched much more closely than suspected tax-fiddlers for example. The drug squad has incredible powers under the law - they can stop and search people and search houses on suspicion of possession of drugs - and long hair often constitutes reasonable suspicion. And the courts back up the D Squad's job by meting out stiff sentences.
This is what happens:
On Friday 15 December David Brown was sentenced to 3 years in prison - one year suspended from a previous - and only - drug offence and two years for possession of dope, two for possession of acid and three months for assaulting a police officer, the last three offences to run concurrently. Dave's girlfriend, Sally Pegrum, was sentenced to 21 months for possession - it was her first offence.
Judge Gill, who presided with two magistrates (who never actually said anything aloud) described the sentences as "sudden, sure and severe". They certainly were: he neglected to mention that they were also inhuman, unjust and barbaric - maybe because he didn't want to spoil the alliteration. We were deeply shocked and angry at what has been done to Dave and Sally but perhaps we should no longer be shocked at the crimes the system commits when it imagines it is threatened. Perhaps we should get more angry.
Dave and Sal were bust in their house in Durham at 1am on 6 August. They were watching TV with two friends when the front door was broken open, and the dope squad thundered in. Apparently they broke down the door 'cos they got no reply to their knocks. They said at the trial they "couldn't see a bell": quite reasonable - after all no-one would think of looking for a bell push in the centre of a door at head height, and it's quite easy to overlook if there's only 8 of you and your head hurts. One of them, Det Con Paul Green, seemingly couldn't find the door and made like Batman through the window of the room containing TV, dope freaks and, by this time, the rest of the dope squad. Several of these daring raiders - Taylor, Green, Angus and Storie (or maybe not Storie, it doesn't matter, he never testified) - went upstairs taking Dave with them. After a short time, during which there were crashes, bangs, screams and yells for help, they came down again. The dope squad with what they had reason to believe was lots of lovely noxious substances and some cash, Green with two small bruises and Dave with cuts, abrasions, bruises, swellings, pains and stiffness over quite a large area of his body and a badly bleeding nose.
Dave complained Green had assaulted him twice - the first time with Taylor and Storie looking on, the second time with Angus giving him a hand - Green complained Dave had assaulted him once, and had, with devilish and no doubt drug inspired cunning, brutally hung out of the window and screamed for help a little later on. So Dave got charged with assault, Green got his photo taken to be used as evidence.
The trial was very predictable. Green, Taylor and Angus denied Dave's story: he denied theirs. The whole thing depended on who you believed.
Since Dave couldn't prove that these "upright, decent young men, just doing a job" (one of the prosecution's more laughable assertions) weren't telling the truth and actually had to beat him up, the jury believed the three little piggies.
One of the most ironic moments in the trial was when one of Dave's neighbours testified that he had heard Dave shouting for help. He said he didn't go and see what was the matter because at that moment he saw a police vehicle draw up (the Black Maria to take them to the station) so he knew everything must be alright.
In court Dave and Sally admitted possession, but denied supplying. Undeterred by this, Gill proceeded to sentence them for supplying: "You were both at the heart and the focus of the drug scene in this University town." It couldn't be proved that Dave and Sally were dealing, and the prosecution admitted this, but they weren't going to let a little thing like this get in the way of punishing them for it. Gill said the case illustrated the "appalling dangers of tolerating organised drug use". But he condemned them to an experience which stands a greater chance of mind-fucking them than dope or acid ever could.
There is a body of opinion that criticises the present legislative treatment of cannabis on the grounds that it exaggerates the dangers of the drug, and needlessly interferes with civil liberty ….. We are also convinced that the present penalties for possession and supply are altogether too high.
(Wooton Report on Cannabis 1968)