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UK: Judge's fury at MEPs

Manchester Online

Monday 28 Oct 2002

EURO MP Chris Davies was severely criticised by a judge after pleading
guilty to possession of cannabis in a protest against drug laws.

The judge said he was highly irresponsible and had taken up valuable court

Davies, 48, the Liberal Democrat Euro MP for Stockport, appeared in court
on Monday with fellow Euro MP, the Italian Marco Cappato, 31, who pleaded
guilty to cannabis possession following an incident five days after Mr
Davies' protest.

Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, heard that they were trying to
highlight the "flawed" nature of Britain's drug laws.

The 48-year-old married father-of-one admitted at Minshull Street Crown
Court, Manchester, that he had 900mgs of cannabis stuck to a postage stamp
when he carried out a protest against drug laws at Stockport Police Station
last December.

Fining both Euro MPs £100, Judge Fish ordered that Davies pay a total of
£3,585 costs while Cappato was told to pay £2,335 costs.


The judge said: 'You have each pleaded guilty to an offence which it would
be true to say is very much at the lower end of the catalogue of drug
offences. But the circumstances in which you each committed this offence
called for careful consideration and go a long way to aggravating the
offences you have committed.

'I do not for one moment cast any doubt on the views and motivation you
have for campaigning for changes in the law regarding cannabis.

'But the way in which you which you chose to pursue that campaign last
December is regarded by the court as highly irresponsible for a number of
reasons. You are both well known campaigners in this field and both have
ready access to the media and other bodies which exercise influence in this
country and in Europe.

'You have the opportunity of expressing your views within the democratic
process available in this country and most others and yet you chose in a
flagrant and provocative way to draw attention to your views by breaching
the laws you seek to change. People who elected you to represent them are
entitled to expect you to respect the law even if you do not agree with it
- just as millions of people throughout Europe have to do, even with laws
you may have helped frame and even if they disagree with them. Your actions
have claimed police time, the time of the prosecution and the time of this
court for what you admit was a publicity stunt.

'That time could have been given to matters that could have had a much
greater importance to people of this city, who have concerns such as street
crime, violence and sexual offences against children, to name just three.

'There are people throughout this city waiting anxiously to come to this
court to give evidence to have matters disposed of and you have taken time
that might have been given to them.'


Both men looked on as Alan Wolstenholme told the court that Mr Davies had
addressed a crowd of about 25 outside Stockport police station on December 15.

He had been talking about the need to reform the country's drug laws and
had said he was making a point in relation to his constituent, Colin
Davies, who had been prosecuted for running a Dutch-style cannabis cafe in

Chris Davies said after the hearing: 'Today I pleaded guilty to possession
of cannabis and I now have a criminal record. I do not regret this.

'I have campaigned for a change in the law and I want the same sort of
approach to cannabis as there is in Holland, which has separated the issue
of soft and hard drugs.

'The judge called us highly irresponsible and if I was in his position I
would have done the same. There is a large demand on court time and I would
argue that if the cannabis laws were reformed it would mean that much more
court time would be available to deal with the things that matter.


'There comes a time when politicians have to match their words with
actions. Today I have been trying to represent people from all walks of
life who have taken cannabis and put themselves at risk of prosecution and
possible loss of their careers. Politicians should be speaking up for their

'It may well be that I am branded in some quarters for this but my criminal
record will not, to the best of my knowledge, stop me from doing anything
that I have to do as an MEP.

'It will be up to the electorate to decide whether to vote for me again
when I come up for re-election in the future. I do not regret this and I
feel that attention has been drawn to the whole issue of cannabis.'




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