Guardian publishes censored policy report

The Guardian newspaper today published the full contents of a government report on drug policy. Only the first half of the report was released last Friday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The other half of the strategy unit study led by the former director general of the BBC, Lord Birt, was withheld but was subsequently leaked to the newspaper.

The report showed that low drug seizure rates give traffickers vast profits from a business that nets £4bn a year. The report was presented in its full form to Tony Blair in June 2003 but even under the Freedom of Information Act, only 52 of its 105 pages were published. The first 50 pages deal with drug consumption patterns and drug-related crime, but the second half of the report delivered a scathing verdict on efforts to disrupt the drugs supply chain.

The government yesterday defended its decision not to publish the second half citing the exemptions for information supplied by law enforcement agencies dealing with security matters, the formulation of government policy, and information that if published that would be prejudicial to the conduct of public affairs. These exemptions are qualified by a public interest test.

There may be an argument that effective law enforcement policies must be kept secret for them to remain effective, but how is the public interest served by keeping failing techniques secret? That only allows for their continued use.

The Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman, Mark Oaten, called on the information commissioner to order full disclosure. “What this report shows and what the government is too paranoid to admit is that the ‘war on drugs’ is a disaster. We need an evidence-led debate about the way forward but if they withhold the evidence we can’t have the debate.”

Danny Kushlik of the Transform drugs policy foundation, which campaigns for legalisation, said the government was using the act to hide the parts of the report which demonstrated that, far from reducing production, trafficking and supply, prohibition spawned the business.

Read the full article on the Guardian’s website.

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