The Tories’ 10-year plan to tackle drug-related crimes is not “compliant with human rights law”, a legal expert has said.
The conclusion comes as proposals by Boris Johnson’s government could see recreational drug users having their passports and driving licences seized.
Measures pursued by the Conservatives could put night-time curfews and travel bans on those who use class A drugs, such as cocaine.
‘Illegal’ to take away drug users’ passports
But a famous UK lawyer said the £300-million strategy would not pass, as it would be illegal to take away the passports of drug users.
Mark Stephens, who represented James Hewitt when allegations of his affair with Princess Diana emerged, told VICE: “The problem, I think, is that this proposal falls foul of the Double Punishment rule.
“If you have been convicted of a drugs offence, you will be sentenced by the criminal courts.
“That is where you get your punishment, whether fine, imprisonment, community service or whatever it is.”
He added: “But if someone then seizes your passport or takes your driving license away, that’s a secondary punishment that I think amounts to double punishment and would therefore be susceptible to challenge.
“When passing legislation of this kind, the minister has to sign a certificate to say it is compliant with human rights law. And it’s not, because you are not allowed to double punish.”
Police may use dealers’ contact numbers of users
Stephens added taking someone’s passport away does not mean they will also lose their citizenship.
But he said recreational users may receive warning texts from police if their numbers are found on dealers’ phones.
He added: “I think there will be an upswing in burner phones but the police can also geo-locate the burner phones.
“It’s not clear yet from the proposals whether it is intended merely as a disincentive or whether they are going to pursue users as well as dealers.”
Although Stephens welcomed the investment in helping people give up drugs, he said the government’s proposals are “ill-thought out and essentially political games-playing”.
Drug use in Westminster
He also discussed recent allegations of drug use in Westminster, after traces of cocaine were discovered in 11 out of 12 bathrooms in the parliament, prompting calls for sniffer dogs.
Several UK politicians, including prime minister Boris Johnson, have previously admitted trying illegal substances such as cocaine.
Stephens said: “‘The question is, who is it that’s going to be the focus of this?
“Is it going to be the toilets of 10 Downing Street or Parliament or your local hedge fund organisation or is it going to be people who are shoplifting to feed a habit?
“That is the sort of question you are going to have to ask yourself and how it will impact on them.”