Magazine article The Spectator

Let's Give This Family a Degree of Privacy and Peace to Heal the Wounds

Magazine article The Spectator

Let's Give This Family a Degree of Privacy and Peace to Heal the Wounds

Article excerpt

We need to guard against childish gloating when we read about the arrest of Patricia Hewitt's son for possessing cocaine, says Rod Liddle. But first, a quick recap of her record

There is something rotten with this country when people can take such base, spiteful pleasure from the arrest of a young lad simply because his mum was a former government minister and architect of New Labour. The sins of the father should not be visited upon the child; the sins of the child should not be used as a whip with which to beat the parents simply because, unaccountably, some people don't like them. I find it terribly saddening that the case has even been reported: our press needs to learn a little restraint and a little morality. This revelling in human misery has become an all-too-ugly character trait of the British newspaper business. So let us leave the unhappy parents alone in the hope that, free from the demented basilisk glare of media coverage, they might repair the wounds occasioned by this young man's arrest and cleave together as a family. They need time, they need peace, they need solitude.

But first, though, let's recap. Nicholas Hewitt Birtles, aged 21, was arrested for being in possession of a Class A drug, cocaine, in Camden Square, north London, very close to his parents' home. He was charged, bailed and is due back in court on 30 September. He was arrested along with another chap of similar age because the two men were seen to be acting suspiciously by the police, who, upon apprehending them, discovered a quantity of white powder which transpired to be cocaine.

The maximum tariff for possession of cocaine is seven years; for dealing, it's life. But that's the maximum tariff. A recent study showed that almost no coke dealers receive the maximum sentence and users often get off with just a warning and maybe a fine: this is a consequence of the government's 'get tough' policy with the drugs trade (working a treat, I'd say) and a certain in-built leniency within the judiciary, the lenient judges.

There's an awful lot of drugs kicking around Camden Town. One senior judge who lived near Camden Square recently spoke out about the problem, while opposing plans for a needle exchange centre to be set up near his home (undoubtedly for profound, considered and broad-based social concerns rather than out of any crass nimbyism). Judge William Birtles said that he felt that such a scheme was not appropriate because it might draw more drug users into the area - a valid point, you might agree. 'We have drug dealing at the end of my road!' he announced, appalled. Well indeed, judge - and that's probably your son Nick, buying from them. But we don't know.

Best wait for the court case to come up and in the meantime allow the judge a degree of privacy and solitude and peace in order to heal the wounds, etc. With Nick's mum, too, because she's probably not best pleased, all things considered.

Ah yes, mum. Mum would be Patricia Hewitt, the Labour MP for Leicester East, and formerly a disastrous health secretary, even by the standards of recent health secretaries. In the past, Ms Hewitt has led Labour's crusade to ban smoking and was also prominent in calling for the government to increase tax duties on alcopops, which are so popular with our deeply misguided young people today. One assumes, given her ascetic approach to all forms of pleasure and total and utter disregard for personal liberty, she would be particularly averse to the most socially damaging, least environmentally friendly and exploitative of drugs, cocaine. …

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