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Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
Law lord urges cannabis legalisation
Cannabis plant
The government has no plans to legalise cannabis
One of the UK's most senior judges has called for cannabis to be legalised, it has been reported.

Lord Bingham, who as the senior law lord heads the highest court in the land, said in The Spectator magazine that the current law on cannabis was "stupid".

Interviewed by the magazine's editor, Tory MP Boris Johnson, the law lord backed the conclusions of a report chaired by Viscountess Runciman two years ago, which called for widespread liberalisation.

Lord Bingham
Lord Bingham: English judicial system "not soft"
Asked whether he would therefore legalise cannabis, Lord Bingham replied: "Absolutely. It is stupid having a law which is not doing what it is there for."

The government has signalled its intention to reduce the penalties for cannabis offences, but has said it is opposed to legalisation.

Lord Bingham also said the English judicial system was one of the most punitive in the world, contrary to popular belief.

He said: "Everybody thinks our system is becoming soft and wimpish. In point of fact, it is one of the most punitive systems in the world - perhaps not as much as the American.

"It is the perception of crime, not the reality. Take an average evening's telly viewing. It's all about old women being beaten to death and rapes on the towpath."

Judges in Lords

Lord Bingham also reiterated his desire to set up a US-style Supreme Court, and criticised the way judges sit in the House of Lords.

"We ought to be seen for what we are - which is judges," he said, adding that virtually none of the Law Lords take part in the debates.

"The House of Lords should not have non-playing members."

Asked where he would like the Supreme Court to be, Lord Bingham replied: "The Inland Revenue occupies two wings of Somerset House - why not throw them out of there? And what is going on at the Scottish Office at the moment?"

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22 May 02 | UK Politics
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