Cannabis: Debacle of the gag that failed

The injunction
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The Independent Online
According to one ally, Jack Straw has had the "Christmas from Hell" but emerged politically unscathed. The same cannot be said of the Attorney General, John Morris, whose actions prolonged the fiasco by preventing publication of the Home Secretary's name.

Mr Morris's allies argue that his actions were legally correct. As the government's official guardian of the law he acted to protect the legal process - although Mr Straw himself wanted to be named. Thus Mr Morris applied for and was granted an injunction last Tuesday preventing the Sun newspaper from naming Mr Straw.

Unfortunately for the Attorney General, his court action was ultimately worthless. The Home Secretary had been identified to millions on the Internet, in foreign newspapers (including those circulating in Britain) and finally in Scotland.

Most colleagues saw this as a case of technology overtaking the law and an Attorney General out of touch with the age of global communications.

To be fair, Mr Morris has never claimed familiarity with new technology as one of his strengths. Aged 66, he has been an MP since 1959, was made a minister in 1964 by Harold Wilson and is a veteran of Jim Callaghan's Cabinet in which he served as Secretary of State for Wales.

As such he is unlikely to be fired, but he is not expected to continue in the post to the end of the parliament. When a suitable successor has been groomed (some suggest Geoff Hoon, a junior minister in the Lord Chancellor's Department), Mr Morris is expected to retire discreetly.

Meanwhile, the law may also be a casualty of the Straw debacle. Yesterday the shadow home secretary, Sir Brian Mawhinney, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the law on naming juveniles, which is 60 years old, should be examined. He said: "The world has changed very considerably in that time," adding that overseas newspapers are readily available, the Internet is essentially un-policed, Scotland and England have different laws and the proportion of crimes committed by under 18s was now very significant. "We need to have a law that deals with present-day reality."

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