He must be the despair of all who care about him

The Sunday Telegraph yesterday contained an astonishing piece of information that was almost by the way of another subject. It concerned the pop star Pete Doherty:

Pete Doherty was strutting around the stage at the Blues Kitchen club in Camden, north London, and his ecstatic fans were lapping it up.

It was just four days after the singer was released from Pentonville prison earlier this month, where he had served only six weeks of a six-month sentence for possessing crack cocaine.

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The show was billed as the “freedom gig” and the 32-year old drug addict was revelling in his notoriety.

Doherty’s record includes 25 drug convictions, plus three more for burglary, assault and driving without insurance, in the last eight years.

I am not sure what I find the most extraordinary in this laconic report. Is it first of all that Mr Doherty should have fans? Ought he not to be the object of pity and revulsion, if he is indeed a drug addict?

Second, why was he released from prison after only serving six weeks of a six-month sentence for the possession of crack cocaine? I was under the impression you got a third (or was it half?) off for good behaviour.

Third, if he is indeed a drug addict, ought he not to be undergoing some form of therapy?

Finally, 25 drug convictions plus three more for assault and burglary in the last eight years: Doherty has certainly been through the courts and been branded a criminal, not just once or twice, but as a repeat offender: 28 times. How many times does it take before we wake up to the fact that drug addiction is not best cured by criminalising it?

Pete Doherty must be the despair of all who love him. He needs help. He does not seem to be getting it. His fan base ought to wake up to the fact that this guy is sick. They should stop attending his concerts and not buy his records until he gets therapy. We should all hope that he takes the necessary steps before it is too late. But please, can we also wake up to the fact, and could our politicians wake up to it as well, that prison and the criminal justice system is not the way to deal with such sick people?

The police and our courts have had enough of their time wasted by people like Doherty. It is time to legalise all drugs and take people like Doherty out of the criminal justice system, and see them for what they are: not criminals, but sick people. The current approach is not working: not only is it not in accord with Christian charity or the needs of addicts, it is quite simply futile. It has to change, and soon.

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