An audience with Professor David Nutt - Special Bulletin from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies
Date: 11 November 2009
Venue: Central London
This is an open invitation to an audience with Professor David Nutt on 11th November. Professor Nutt, one of the most distinguished and respected experts on drugs in the world, was dismissed by the Home Secretary on Friday as chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, supposedly for campaigning against government policy on drugs.
Those of you who are on the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies monthly bulletin list will have received our October bulletin last Friday morning and will have seen that it featured the launch of our latest briefing, by Professor David Nutt, Estimating drug harms - a risky business. The briefing was based on the Eve Saville Lecture he gave in July 2009. If you do not currently subscribe to our free monthly bulletins you can do so here.
In the bulletin we detailed the press attention that the publication received. We were pleased that it appeared to be encouraging a public policy debate across all sections of the media. At that point we were unaware that our and Professor Nutt's enthusiasm for an evidence-based discussion were apparently not shared by the government. The decision last Friday by the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, to dismiss Professor Nutt as chair of the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has provoked widespread revolt among the scientific community and has already caused other members of the ACMD to resign, with further resignations threatened. Professor Nutt's dismissal sends out a terrible signal about the government's commitment to evidence-based policy and risks igniting a far-reaching crisis in the government's relationship with the scientific community. In a letter to The Times today, Ian Stolerman, Emeritus Professor of Behavioural Pharmacology at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London writes that anyone who takes on Professor Nutt's role as chair of the ACMD `risks being branded by the scientific community as a collaborator with a Government that has no respect for expertise'.
The Home Secretary has justified Professor Nutt's dismissal on the grounds that he had been engaged in a campaign against government policy. We would challenge anyone who has actually read and digested the briefing to draw that conclusion. Professor Nutt's concern was to find a way of generating an inclusive public debate that would permit a consensus to emerge over how to approach the problems of the harms caused by drugs - not to campaign against government policy. The Home Secretary also appears to have misunderstood that Professor Nutt was speaking and writing in his academic capacity as a Professor at Imperial College London, and not as chair of the ACMD. This apparent attack on academic freedom was cited by one member of the ACMD as behind his decision to resign.
Having originally published the paper that caused such a furore, we are now organising a public meeting at which Professor Nutt can present his views and debate the issues with the audience. The meeting will take place at a central London venue which will be announced in a confirmation email to attendees.
The event will follow the scheduled 10th November meeting of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which Professor Nutt would have been chairing had the Home Secretary not acted so precipitately - the results of that meeting will no doubt impact on the nature of the discussion at the 11th November meeting.
Attendance at the meeting is free and on a first come, first served basis and we anticipate interest being high. If you would like to book a place please ensure that you email your name, job title/profession and contact email to .