Not Criminals - Report

The Ana Liffey Drug Project and the London School of Economics released a report in late 2018 calling for the decriminalisation of people who use drugs in Ireland. The report, titled ‘Not Criminals’ notes that treating possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use as a criminal offence is counterproductive in that it both fails to discourage drug use and acts as a barrier to seeking help and reintegration for those people who are using drugs. It supports the findings of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality which strongly recommended considering a civil response instead of the criminal justice route.

Writing in the foreword to the report, Professor Sir John Strang of Kings College London, one of the world’s leading figures in addiction psychiatry notes that: “…we know that criminalisation has effects that go far beyond any simple deterrence of a behaviour. Periods of imprisonment can be actively damaging, and having a criminal record can affect people’s ability to travel freely, to find work, to engage with society in general. In short, being criminalised is stigmatising. It affects both how others perceive you, and how you perceive yourself. In light of what we know, it is difficult to justify criminalising behaviours associated with personal drug use, such as simple possession, as a valid policy choice.”

Craig Dwyer