Letter: All informers now

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Even the governors of Her Majesty's prisons cannot stamp out drug dealing in the institutions for which they are responsible, despite their powers of searching visitors and overseeing contacts between visitors and inmates.

No one expects that dealing can be eliminated from day centres, where clients can come and go freely. The question for the homelessness charities is how best to discourage dealing in such centres while at the same time offering an environment of support and respect in which homeless people, many with severe drug problems, can begin to rebuild their lives.

Ruth Wyner and John Brock are today in prison, not for encouraging drug- dealing, since no one supposes they did that, but only for, in the opinion of the court, having got that balance wrong. But they were carrying out, to the best of their judgement, the same policy which is widely adopted by many such charities.

Perhaps the existing policy is wrong. If so, there should be consultation between the police, the charities and other relevant parties to agree a way forward. Prosecution and prison for those who have, in good faith, given many years of their lives to helping some of the most unfortunate in our society is a repugnant way of seeking to address the issue.