Fri | Sep 22, 2017

28-year-old UK gov't memo highlights Jamaicans drug involvement

Published:Thursday | January 5, 2017 | 1:09 PM

THE VOICE (UK):
A key policy adviser to late prime minister Margaret Thatcher claimed that the black community’s use of cannabis was so widespread that it was given to babies and young children

Carolyn Sinclair, who later headed up a government unit promoting racial equality, said cannabis had become "part of life" for the African Caribbean community and that "the fact [it] is illegal is widely regarded as unjust".

Her controversial comments were made in a memo in July 1989, which was part of a tranche of government papers released last month by the National Archives in Kew.

PROBLEM

Writing in response to a proposal by the then home secretary, Douglas Hurd, to launch a "two-pronged" anti-drug campaign by recruiting people from the black community, Sinclair wrote: "Afro-Caribbeans rarely take 'hard' drugs such as heroin, but regard cannabis as part of life. It is given to babies. The fact that cannabis is illegal is widely regarded as unjust. Most Afro-Caribbeans do not think that they, as a group, have a drug problem."

At the time government ministers were concerned that Britain was about to experience a crack epidemic reported to have affected African American communities.

Sinclair wrote: "... there are good reasons to fearing that 'crack' will get a hold on Afro-Caribbeans in a way that other hard drugs have not. Jamaicans are heavily involved in running the 'crack' trade in the USA, and it would be amazing if knowledge was not passed on to Jamaicans living here. And there are sizeable Afro-Caribbean communities in most of the districts where 'crack' use has been discovered so far."

MESSAGE

Commenting on Hurd’s plans she wrote: "The police and other statutory authorities all say that it is hard to get the message across to Afro-Caribbeans. Douglas Hurd's proposed use of informal channels may be the only way. It should be tried."

Sinclair's comments follows the controversy that surrounded those made by Oliver Letwin, former chief policy advisor to David Cameron.

Early last year Downing Street files released by the National Archives included a confidential joint paper written by Letwin also a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher and former Conservative MP Hartley Booth.
In the papers, Letwin urged the then Prime Minister, Thatcher to ignore claims that rioting in mainly black inner city areas was caused by social deprivation and racism.

“The root of social malaise is not poor housing, or youth ‘alienation', or the lack of a middle class," they wrote in the document but the "bad moral attitudes" of black people.

APOLOGY

The pair also attacked plans in a separate follow-up paper for a £10 million communities programme, suggesting it would end up being used to “subsidise Rastafarian arts and crafts workshops”.

Letwin was roundly condemned by MPs and race equality campaigners and later issued an apology saying that parts of the private memo were “badly worded and wrong".