The Home Office is as out of touch as ever…

This week the Psychoactive Substances Act became law. Over at, editor Ian Dunt wrote a scathing review of the official Home Office guidance to retailers.

As he says, the guidance seems to be a melting pot of every prejudice you could imagine against young people:

The Home Office clearly envisions a youthful sub-class of drug fiends, unable to stay off the stuff even immediately ahead of purchasing it. Laughing gas has a mild effect which lasts for about a minute, so it’s unlikely the user would be intoxicated on it literally while purchasing more. Perhaps the Home Office doesn’t know this. Or perhaps they assume they are eating all sorts of drugs and are still high off them while going for a laughing gas chaser to finish off the evening. Or maybe they wrote this guidance in the same spirit in which they wrote the law: without due consideration for logic, legal validity or objective reality.

The drug fiend stereotypes go on and on. “Do they have physical symptoms of intoxication such as bad skin, weeping eyes, rash around the nose?” God help you if you’ve got spots or hay fever: the Home Office knows you’re a wrong ‘un.

This reminded me of how, under the previous Labour administration, carrying two mobile phones or ordering a vegetarian meal on a plane would be enough to raise suspicions of you being a terrorist. Helen Duffett wrote about that at the time.:

So far-fetched have been recent grounds for arrest, or for flagging yourself up as a terrorist suspect, that people keep asking me if Lib Dem Voice is running a series of hoax posts. (We’ve had lingering near street ironworks, ordering vegetarian airline meals, handing in lost property, scaring ducks, putting your bin out on the wrong day, looking at things and – easily the most heinous, in my opinion – going equipped with balloons.)

I thought I was joking (albeit darkly) when I said on LibDig that people might one day be singled out for their taste in music, but even that now appears to have happened. Home Office Watch features the terrifying ordeal of a jazz musician arrested by anti-terror police who had taken his soundproofed studio, replete with wires, as a sign of bomb-making.

I took it a bit further on my own blog, looking at all the ways I filled the supposed criteria for being a terrorist, pointing out that what really wasn’t funny was that you could find yourself locked up for 6 weeks without even knowing why.

We have a camera – terrorists like to take pictures of things, you know. I personally don’t take photos of sewer covers but that’s just weird, not a sign of malevolence of purpose:-)

We have a laptop, a desktop and are considering purchasing another laptop. Could our accumulation of technology be used for purposes more sinister than storing music, blogging, Twitter, e-mailing and Club Penguin?

We have a car and I travel occasionally. The Government suggests that someone may be a terrorist if they “travel but is vague about where they are going.” I’m worried now. Is it sufficient to say I’m going to see family up north? What about saying I’m going to work? Or “to the shops?”? Should I always tell my friends and family the exact address I’m going to? Maybe we should always make sure the Police know where we’re going, and why, just to be on the safe side? That could be an idea for another protest along the lines of the CC all your e-mails to Jacqui Smith day – tell her what you are doing on a particular day, right down to the last detail:-)

So, years later, the Home Office still hasn’t got any more realistic or in touch – and Parliament is still passing very poor legislation because they can.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Simon Banks 29th May '16 - 9:24pm

    Is the human brain a psychoactive substance?

    Can I buy it in Body Shop?

  • Stevan Rose 30th May '16 - 1:16am

    That Home Office guidance made me laugh out loud. Do they not know there are “other” uses for canned whipped cream that might make one hesitate when challenged in a shop on what it will be used for. It had never occurred to me to snort it for a legal high. Must be very messy. I now have visions of kids living in squats squirting whipped cream up their noses. I presume there will be an army of enforcement agents touring supermarkets to test whether they are challenged on purchasing 2 cans of squirty cream but no strawberries.

  • @Stevan Rose
    “That Home Office guidance made me laugh out loud.. I now have visions of kids living in squats squirting whipped cream up their noses.”

    If you think the Home Office guidance is hilarious, you will enjoy this :-

    Lots of good advice from seasoned users on how to avoid inhaling the whipped cream and killing yourself! One kid even snorts the stuff all day while working at McDonalds. I confess, I never even knew this sub-sub-culture existed before the Home Office pointed it out.

  • Seriously, while it’s oh so funny to ridicule the Home Office’s efforts here, I think it’s important to point out why this isn’t always a laughing matter :-

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