7 October 2005
A judge issued a warning about what he believes to be a clear link between cannabis and crime when jailing a drug user.
Judge Anthony Niblett told an arsonist who had set fire to his former girlfriend’s house while under the influence of the drug: “Those whose minds are steeped in cannabis are capable of quite extraordinary criminality.”
Sentencing Peter West, 33, a habitual drug user, at Hove Crown Court, East Sussex, he added: “Your brain has been steeped in cannabis for most of your adult life.”
He described West as a danger to the public after hearing how the blaze gutted the three-bedroom house in Partridge Green, West Sussex, and left his girlfriend and her two young children with just the clothes they stood in. He had set light to her house in a rage fuelled by cannabis and vodka, the court was told.
West, from Cowfold, West Sussex, was a heavy cannabis smoker and also used heroin, cocaine and crack. Lisa Williams, his former partner, told police that West had become increasingly moody and aggressive in the weeks before the attack. On the night of the arson he suddenly punched her and said he was going to burn down the house with all of them inside.
Miss Williams fled with her children. West set the house alight, leading to their neighbours being evacuated.
West admitted assault and arson. Jailing him for life, the judge said West must serve a minimum of two-and-a-half-years before being considered for parole. However, he will remain under licence for life.
The judge criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for not charging West with the more serious offence of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
In March this year the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to re-examine the dangers of cannabis. He acted after researchers in Holland said using it “moderately increases” the risk of psychotic symptoms among the young.
The latest research follows increasing concerns about the downgrading of the drug. Health campaigners claim that there is growing evidence that cannabis is more damaging to mental health than was previously thought.