Sunday, 12 October 2014

Would You Put Stephen Fry in Prison?

by Filippa Furniss


(source: Wiki Commons)
Stephen Fry represents all that is British culture, intelligence and intellect. As a broadcaster, comedian, writer, presenter, actor, Fry has managed to integrate his timeless humour, and vast knowledge into infinite aspects of media for the better part of the last 30 years. An all-time favourite pastime of mine happens to be watching a horrifying number of QI episodes back to back on a Sunday, so I feel as if I’m quite well acquainted with Mr Fry by this point.

It may be this family-friendly, good humoured way in which Fry presents himself that shocked the world last week, as his new book More Fool Me was published. In this third instalment of his autobiographies, more of Stephen’s past is revealed in a very personal manner. His struggles with depression and bi-polarity are further examined and discussed, exposing Fry to the whole world to see. However, the issue which I wish to grasp upon is the matter of drug abuse, which Fry discusses openly for the first time.

More Fool Me reveals the depth of drug abuse, involving cocaine, which Stephen Fry plummeted into the late 80s. Fry discusses how it helped him to ease some of the darker moments of his depression, but quickly turned into no more than a hobby. In the past few weeks, Fry has faced much abuse from the media regarding to his past habits, which I feel raises an important question:

Is prosecution still valid to somebody who has abused drugs in the past?

What do I think? No.

What does the law think? It depends.

Up front, this may seem like an irrational and abrupt answer. Surely drug abusers must be arrested and prosecuted for their past crime? This is the basis for the query that I am raising. Throughout the media, we have hundreds of celebrities, such as Fry, discussing their pasts of abusing cocaine and other Class A substances. But why are these people not prosecuted? They have committed a crime, and are now essentially admitting to it. Surely this requires the standard jail time that can stretch up to decades? The Law, however, thinks differently. Upon doing my research, I was amazed that there is no law on past drug abusers. To summarise it simply (and I apologise to any qualified personal for my horrendously vague summarisation), it comes down to the police involved in each case as to how severe, if any, prosecutions are when the drug abuse has been in the past.

Personally, I feel that this seems unfair on those individuals involved in these cases. The abusers themselves have no power as to how the police react, regardless as to whether they committed the crime 10 years ago, or last Wednesday. This is very much why I feel that past drug abuse should have a set time limit on it, and once this number of years have passed, then the individual does not meet arrest, but rather support for tackling addiction.

Stephen Fry is a perfect example of this. More Fool Me speaks out to the world about his past struggle with his cocaine addiction. The key word in that sentence is past. The law is primarily written to protect its people, and to keep us safe. Drug abuse is therefore a crime for the clear reason that these substances are harmful to us! So why, therefore, should somebody who has overcome these addictions, somebody who has conquered a dark part of their life, now be prosecuted for their past actions? 


Obviously, I am making a sweeping generalisation here, however the strong emphasis needs to be placed on support, rather than punishment. Our society focuses so strongly on rectifying the blips through prosecution, rather than support for addiction, that almost 60% of abusers relapse after serving their sentences. The UKDPC (UK Drug Policy Commission) are currently revamping their support and treatment for offenders, helping to tackle this issue through Britain.

To me, Stephen Fry is still a role model. He was able to overcome a very dark and draining part of his life, and is relating to people all across the world that also suffer from bi-polar and depressive mental illnesses. Through his book, not only has Fry been able to raise awareness over his mental illnesses, but also the struggle of addiction and how support is the absolute necessity to overcome this.


Here is the video clip of Stephen Fry briefly discussing his book:



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