Pick of the Week: An attack of reefer madness
Our top five most read stories this week.
Has the criminalisation of "offence-giving" gone too far? Research released this week revealed that over 355 people have been charged or cautioned for messages on social media, including for the causing of 'offence'. Campaign group Big Brother Watch is now calling for the words "grossly offensive" to be removed from the Malicious Communications Act and a full review of communication legislation.
Commentators and politicians alike have got very excited in the past year over the rise of Nigel Farage's party. There have been suggestions that Ukip is a new revolutionary movement on the right of British politics. However, new polling released this week suggest that we could all be getting a bit ahead of ourselves. The polls of four of Ukip's target seats found the party trailing in second place behind the Conservatives. The party were even behind in a seat where they achieved their best result at last year's local elections. Could the great Ukip revolution turn out to be little more than a damp squib?
Is the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) sitting on evidence about the impact of legal aid cuts to avoid embarrassment ahead of the election? It certainly appears so. Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan asked a parliamentary question 16 weeks ago on the number of litigants in person – people representing themselves in court – as a result of the reforms. No answer has yet arrived.
There was much excitement and uproar last weekend over Tory plans to remove disability benefits from the obese. The proposals were splashed across the front of several newspapers and dominated the news cycle for several days. The proposals conjured up stereotypes of millions of overweight 'scroungers', refusing to get off the sofa and go to work. With this in mind, our reporter Adam Bienkov thought he would take a look at how many people this new 'crackdown' would actually affect. He discovered that far from being a widespread problem affecting millions, the number of people claiming disability benefits for obesity related conditions was just 1,780.
There was also much uproar this week over a report linking the regular use of cannabis with psychosis. Much of the press claimed the study was a damning blow to those who call for legalisation of the drug. However a closer look at the report by our editor Ian Dunt found that while it did discover evidence that the strongest forms of the drug can be dangerous, it also found milder forms of cannabis, like hash, are mostly harmless. A relaxation of the law, combined with regulation, could make it easier for people to get the latter and harder to get the former. Far from disproving the case for drug law reform: the report actually strengthened it.