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Ex-MP: Draconian drug laws fuelling gang warfare

Draconian drugs laws are exacerbating rather than improving Bermuda's escalating gang warfare, according to former PLP MP Delaey Robinson.

He told the joint parliamentary select committee on violent crime and gun violence last week that Bermuda's leaders needed to concentrate on the underlying issues causing crime if they were to make any progress.

He argued that drug legislation which leads to Bermudians getting placed on the US stop list for minor possession offences was unhelpful, preventing young people from seeing more of the world. And he said the American prohibition of alcohol at the start of the last century illustrated how banning a substance would ensure it became more desirable and more expensive.

“It's the law of unintended consequences,” he said. “When you prohibit drugs, the effect has to be that the supply of drugs on the streets increases. It doesn't go down, it goes up.

“Every time we tweak our legislation and make it more draconian increasing the fines and jail sentences and so on the entrepreneurs follow. The prices go up. That encourages more entrepreneurs to become involved.

“We have to be very careful in our approach to social problems and be careful to look out for unintended consequences.”

Mr Robinson, citing research from other western democracies, said the major gap in income between the rich and the poor in Bermuda was the likely cause of many health and social problems.

“We have rates of teenage pregnancies going up. Both males and females are affected. The result for young people who are essentially, in many ways, cast out of society is that they will want to do all the things that everybody else does and they will go about doing them.”

He said the prison system had become a revolving door for many, with high rates of recidivism and a “system that just doesn't work to produce, after prison, a rehabilitated person who can function in society”.

Like charity campaigner Sheelagh Cooper, who gave evidence to the bipartisan committee earlier this month, he called for the Department of Financial Assistance, Bermuda Housing Corporation and the Department of Child and Family Services to be merged.

He argued every school pupil should get a free breakfast provided by the state and emphasised the importance of early childhood development. Mr Robinson said Governments all over the world typically struggled to find solutions to complex social problems and Bermuda needed to consider fresh approaches.

Delaey Robinson

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Published December 13, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 13, 2010 at 12:15 pm)

Ex-MP: Draconian drug laws fuelling gang warfare

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