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Howard League blog · 4 Nov 2019

A story that illustrates the craziness of the criminal justice system

This is too shocking not to share. A friend, a police officer, told me he was in a car with three colleagues for the whole day, cruising round aimlessly ‘looking for burglars’. As if this wasn’t a total waste of taxpayers’ money and a total waste of police time, it gets worse.

As they didn’t spot any burglars walking the streets with a bag marked ‘Swag’, they looked for something to do. They saw three people sitting in a car, which looked as though it might have been abandoned. They did a stop-and-search but found nothing, no drugs, nothing. The people were just sitting in the car, it appeared they might have been homeless and were simply sheltering in an abandoned car.

The police then did a PNC check on them. Why? I asked, the people were not breaking the law and there appeared to be no reason to check their identities, indeed even if they had given false identities, that is not a crime.

But, it turned out one of the men was subject to a criminal behaviour order that banned him from certain areas, which he was breaching by being in the area. He was arrested, taken off to the police station, and detained overnight. He would appear in court and could well face time in prison.

A man has been rendered homeless, imprisoned and swept back into the system, for growing and selling a few leaves of cannabis

His story is illustrative of the craziness of criminal justice system. Almost a year previously, the man had grown three cannabis plants in his flat, mostly for personal use but he also sold some to a friend. He was caught, sentenced and spent some time in custody. Of course, he lost his tenancy and was made homeless. When he was in prison (on remand, I think) he had the CBO imposed, although he was not in the court, he was in prison on video link. As he related it to the police, he didn’t understand what was being imposed, he didn’t have a lawyer with him, he wasn’t given any written explanation of the order and he had no idea what it meant.

So a man has been rendered homeless, imprisoned and swept back into the system, for growing and selling a few leaves of cannabis. I have no idea how much the police, court and prison all cost, but it is not insubstantial. Meanwhile, highly-trained and well-paid police are dealing with him and not catching burglars.

But then, very few of them wander the streets with a bag marked ‘Swag’.


  • Mr E. A. Quinn says:

    Miss Cook, under BCL cannabis is still illegal as much as you smell it daily on “the street”. We are now a society where you have to be VERY aware of the full legal implications of your daily actions. Especially as everything is “going to court” where you are guilty purely by your presence and its a tick box affair.
    The failure is the total “unaccountability” of all agencys involved in the law including the Ministry of Justice, indicative is the whole legal industries failure to get to grips with the IPP scandal. Seven years since its abolition in 2012

    Well done you for getting Failing Grayling’s library book ban lifted.

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