Yes, it was my son, says Straw. But I'm as hardline on drugs as ever

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The Independent Online
Jack Straw spoke of his embarrassment yesterday as he was finally identified as the father of the teenager alleged to have sold drugs to a journalist. Michael Streeter and Colin Brown say he will press on with his crusade against crime, and to make parents take more responsibility for their children's actions.

The Home Secretary last night told of his "shock and concern" after learning that his son William faced an accusation of drug-dealing after an undercover operation by the Mirror newspaper.

Mr Straw, who has spoken privately of his frustration over his enforced anonymity, said he was now "very relieved" to be able to speak out after the High Court lifted the ban on naming his son.

He agreed that William Straw, aged 17, ought to expect no favours from the legal system, but neither should he suffer more for being the son of a prominent politician.

"When the Mirror first spoke to me I felt the same emotions as any parent would do in such circumstances - those of shock and concern. Being a parent means giving love and support, and - when it's necessary - confronting children with their wrongdoing. When a child does wrong, I believe it to be the duty of a parent to act promptly," Mr Straw said.

His son had gone voluntarily with him to the police and would accept "any sanctions" which arise. Mr Straw was "of course" embarrassed by this but it did not affect his ability to speak on law and order matters including drugs policy. Neither he nor Downing Street had ever considered his resignation.

"These are experiences that other families have had and so it does not in any way affect my ability to talk on these matters ... what it has done is to strengthen my conviction against legalisation of soft drugs."

The naming of Mr Straw as the father of the arrested youth followed an agonising period in which, day by day, the secret trickled out. After what one opposition MP called "slow torture" for Mr Straw's family, a High Court judge, Mr Justice Toulson, lifted an injunction which banned the media in this country from identifying the youth. On the day that Scottish newspapers published the minister's identity, the judge asked "whether it was sensible or appropriate for the court to maintain opposition in which matters can be published in Greenock but not in Carlisle".

His lifting of an injunction - granted at the wish of the Attorney General on Tuesday when the Sun threatened to publish - brought to an end a time of growing confusion over the law. Newspapers in France and Ireland and media around the world had revealed the identity of Mr Straw, who was not named when the Mirror broke the story on Christmas Eve, claiming that one of its reporters had bought cannabis worth pounds 10 from his son.

William was arrested and released on police bail. Next week the Crown Prosecution Service will decide whether to prosecute. There are indications that a police file sent to the CPS expresses the belief that because of conflicts in evidence of what happened on the night there should be no further action, except possibly a caution. No decision has yet been made on the journalist who reportedly received the drugs, Dawn Alford, who was arrested and bailed by police on Monday.

Philip Havers QC, for the Attorney General, John Morris, had argued at a private hearing yesterday that the injunction granted by Mr Justice Moses on Tuesday should be continued.

But Mr Justice Toulson said that when Mr Justice Moses made his order, the boy's identity was not widely known. "The question is whether the stage has now been reached where it would be artificial to pretend that anonymity can be preserved. "

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