Misusing Drugs and Misapplying Paternalism: Injecting Portuguese Decriminalisation into the UK Justice System

Authors: EllenWright, Kate Harker Published date: 15-01-2016 Status: Under Review

This article outlines the criminalisation of drug possession in the UK, with reference to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and discusses the inadequacies of criminalisation. It presents the theoretical concept of paternalism and the sub-concepts of soft and hard paternalism. These are compared in order to illustrate the current legislative situation in theoretical terms and to provide a suitable backdrop to advocate for the decriminalisation of drug possession on the basis of the un-paternalistic harm such criminalisation causes. The particular social consequences an individual may currently face as a result of an approach based on criminalisation are articulated. The reforms made in Portugal, regarding the decriminalisation of drug possession, are examined in detail and the suitability of introducing such reforms under UK legislation are assessed. Using the evidence gained from the reforms made in Portugal this paper advocates for the decriminalisation of drug possession in the UK, with the view to introducing a softer paternalistic approach. The connotations of decriminalisation are briefly discussed, with legalisation being dismissed as an option, and submissions are made for an approach that places a focus on healthcare and education in place of criminal sanctions. Keywords: Drugs, Paternalism, Decriminalisation, Portugal, Reform

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Corresponding author. Ellen Wright: editor@uklsa.co.uk


COPYRIGHT: © The UK Law and Society Association, 2016