Pauline Pearce: why jail drug mules?

“Hackney heroine” tells why she confronted rioters (from last Monday’s Guardian)

Pauline Pearce was the woman caught on camera lecturing rioting youths in Hackney that they should “fight for a cause” rather than tearing apart their neighbourhood, and the footage was shared on YouTube and she¬† became a minor celebrity (although she was already a local radio presenter and had had a career as a jazz singer). The above profile is from the Guardian but she has also featured in the other major British papers; there is an interview with her in today’s Sunday Mirror.

A disturbing fact about her history is that she was caught bringing cocaine into the country in 1999, and nobody disputes that she was duped into doing so - she agreed to carry a jar if picked peppers for someone in Jamaica, where she had been to a music festival, to their family in England. She was advised to plead guilty and got a six-year sentence, and served three years.

Why is someone being jailed at all for a first offence when they had a convincing innocent explanation for carrying the drugs? It is quite proper, of course, to lock up people who carry what they know to be drugs or other contraband, particularly if they do it more than once, but it is well known that drug gangs use expendable “mules”, often women who are desperate because of poverty or debt. It had even been known for them to inform on one mule so that another, carrying a larger amount, can pass through undisturbed. It may also be common for people from immigrant communities where there are close links between families in their old and new countries to carry things between the two, something a white British judge or legislator might not take into account.

If someone carries an innocent looking object and has no reason to suppose that there are drugs concealed in it (and it can be concealed very cleverly - in one recent incident a wooden door was impregnated with cocaine), locking them up is simply a huge injustice, to say nothing of the effect on their dependant children. The objective of stopping drugs entering the country could be achieved by simply confiscating the drugs.

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  • Honey

    Doesn’t answer why she carried on helping with the sale of drugs here though does it