By Lola Brittain / Byline Times

Rhetorically, drug policy is objective and indiscriminate. Practically, it is quite the opposite. As the recent deportations over minor drug offences make clear, the drug war produces profoundly different outcomes depending on race.

Last week, 17 people were deported to Jamaica by the Government for being “serious foreign national offenders”. The Home Office has refused to release a breakdown of the crimes they committed, but at least four of those on board were condemned to a life away from their family and friends for minor drug convictions.

Throwing together non-violent drug offences with crimes of the highest order – such as rape, murder and manslaughter – Cabinet members have repeatedly insisted that those deported were “serious, violent and persistent foreign national offenders”.

But, as the case of Tajay Thompson demonstrates, this is false. Spared at the eleventh hour by a successful legal case, Thompson was convicted of possession with intent to supply, serving half of a 15-month sentence in 2015. Groomed into a ‘county lines’ operation when he was just 17 – in which vulnerable youngsters are recruited by adult drug dealers to travel to rural parts of the country to sell drugs on their behalf – it is difficult to see how he fits the definition of a “serious, violent or persistent criminal”.

This poses two questions. Firstly, can the Government really continue to condemn ‘county lines’ while deporting its victims? Secondly, why, as Jeremy Corbyn put it, is it “one rule for young black boys from the Caribbean and another for white boys from the United states?”

Boris Johnson admitted to taking cocaine as a teenager, as did Michael Gove as a young journalist. However, the trajectory of their lives have been nothing but positive and they have faced no consequences of their admissions. Granted they have admitted to taking drugs, not selling them, but how do they think cocaine is acquired? As free marketers, they must know that supply is created by demand. 

Both claim that it was a mistake, but that their “foolish” choices should be overlooked. To quote Gove: “I don’t believe that past mistakes disqualify you”. Essentially, a mistake is a mistake and it shouldn’t tarnish your life years down the road.