RogerBW's Blog

Thoughts about drug offences 30 December 2017

A recent news story, the matter of Laura Plummer arrested and imprisoned for transporting a banned opioid into Egypt, has given me to think.

The British reaction seems to have taken several strands, but one in particular could be summed up as "Egyptian prisons are too horrible for Our Brave Girls". Well then, if you believe that, why didn't you complain about Egyptian prisons being too horrible for Egyptians? Do you believe that Egyptians are somehow Not Like Us and their suffering in prison is just fine and dandy? Why does it only matter to you when a British person is imprisoned? What about the other 1,000-odd non-Egyptians in Egyptian prisons?

And if you think a three year sentence is excessive, why do you stand up and cheer whenever your own government gradually insists on longer or compulsory sentences, complain about criminals being "let off" with light punishment, etc.? Do you really expect me to believe that you will stop agitating for "harsher" sentences before the current penalties have doubled (thus producing the same expected sentencing in the UK as in Egypt for this offence)? You never have before.

And if you think "she didn't really mean to offend", why do you applaud the increasing use of strict-liability offences, where no mens rea (briefly, awareness that one might be doing something criminal) is necessary for conviction?

Let's pretend for a moment that the people who believe this stuff aren't simply racists, who would quite reasonably by their own lights want a white woman let off but are happy for nasty foreigners to be imprisoned and tortured. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt, and just assume they haven't thought things through. How would they live with themselves if they ever actually considered the consequences of the policies they cheer for?

(All of which is quite separate from the ridiculous idea of declaring some chemicals illegal, which pretty much everyone who's done the research has now accepted has been a huge and costly failure, but we're stuck with it anyway because it makes a lot of money for law enforcement agencies, criminals, and suppliers of legal alternatives, all of which can buy politicians.)


  1. Posted by chris bell at 10:06am on 30 December 2017

    I am dealing at the moment with the notion of someone who because her son is an alcoholic is calling for clemency for this woman -- at the same time as condemning the local shops which sell him alcohol in spite of having been asked not to.

    The offence Plummer has committed, in England as in Egypt, is supplying; in England Tramadol is a class C drug. (The penalty here for this offence is a large fine, or up to fourteen years' imprisonment, or both, as far as I can make out.)

    What sort of mind apparently believes we ought to show the compassion that she feels herself, thinks the owner of an off-licence ought to be imprisoned for some unspecified moral crime, and wants to set a drug-dealer free?

  2. Posted by Owen Smith at 11:43am on 30 December 2017

    The thing that annoys me is the media makes no mention of the multiple offences that have been committed in the UK in this case. It wasn't her prescription, someone "gave" her the Tramadol. This is a prescription drug, no-one is supposed to "give" it to anyone. So whoever gave them to her committed an offence in the UK, and presumably Plummer committed an offence in the UK by receiving them. But that gets no coverage in the media and her family in the UK keep insisting she's innocent when she has quite clearly broken laws both in the UK and Egypt.

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