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Drugs crime sentencing too 'excessive'

BBC News logo BBC News 14/6/2021
a man wearing a suit and tie: Deputy Mark Helyar said the current drugs sentencing guidelines must change © BBC Deputy Mark Helyar said the current drugs sentencing guidelines must change

One of Guernsey's senior politicians has called for a change to the way drug crime is sentenced.

Deputy Mark Helyar said the current sentencing guidelines were "excessive".

Guernsey's States is currently in the middle of a review of the island's justice policy.

Former Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Tom Lloyd, who advises on drug policy, said "politicians in Guernsey recognize the fact harm is being caused to its citizens by the current system".

Tom Orchard's son Pip was sentenced to three years in prison earlier this year, after being found guilty of importing three grams of cocaine and some Xanax pills.

Mr Orchard said his son, a trained paediatric nurse, was "traumatised" by his experiences helping refugees in Greece, which "forced him to self-medicate" and that he was "not going to be helped by a prison sentence".

More than 4,000 people have signed a petition asking for Pip Orchard to be released.

Currently Guernsey's Health and Social Care and Home Affairs Committees are reviewing the island's drugs laws, which includes considering introducing non-punitive sentences for small amounts.

It's understood work on that project will hinge on whether resources are dedicated by the Government Work Plan.

Mr Helyar said: "We're punishing a lot of young people and criminalising their conduct for crimes, which effectively are treated very severely."

He added: "I think the issue of sentencing falls a little between the cracks in terms of the substance policy and the justice review, and that Policy and Resources is trying its best to co-ordinate the gap between the two to make sure that it gets addressed as quickly as possible".

Mr Lloyd said: "The leadership shown by Deputy Helyar is very important along with other deputies I've spoken to privately who say there is need for change.

"In my experience not just in the UK but all around the world, drug law enforcement actually does more harm than good," he said.

Last year a review of Guernsey sentencing relating to drug possession found two-thirds of people caught in possession of drugs ended up in prison, compared to 4% in England and Wales.

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