Cold comfort

January 28, 2000

Most Cambridge academics do not support Wintercomfort, or the campaign to free Ruth Wyner and John Brock, as stated in Karen Gold's one-sided article, "Doing time for doing good" (THES, January 14.).

Wyner and Brock were sentenced not because drugs were being used or even because they were being sold on their premises, but for "knowingly allowing the sale and use of heroin". To compare their situation with prison governors or headteachers is misleading and to claim "client confidentiality" for heroin dealers, arriving in their BMWs and who were clearly not clients, is unacceptable, as Judge Jonathan Haworth said at Cambridge Crown Court in his summing-up, which is posted in the cam.misc newsgroup.

One of the main reasons people first take drugs is peer pressure. It takes a strong character to resist drugs when others around you are taking them and there is a ready supply. I cannot help but think how many vulnerable, homeless people who were not heroin users went to Wintercomfort looking for help and found themselves in an environment where drug dealing and taking was the norm, as the judge said. A number became heroin addicts and some died as a result. Such was the scale of dealing and Wintercomfort's indifference to it that dealers were plying their trade, unhindered, within hours of someone dying from a heroin overdose on the premises, as the judge reported.

Don Keiller Senior lecturer, School of applied sciences Anglia Polytechnic University

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