back to article Durham police demonstrate DNA will stuff you

Durham police last week put the final nail in the coffin of the Home Office mantra "nothing to hide, nothing to fear", with a clear announcement that DNA and fingerprinting could harm an individual’s career prospects – even if they are otherwise totally innocent. The warning came in a press release relating to mephedrone, which …

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FAIL

young people?

@Eddie Edwards

I presume you haven't started shaving yet? There is life after 30, you know. You might even find that a few of us could teach you a thing or two about pharmeceutical chemistry.

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Anonymous Coward

Discrimination is Criminal

If the Durham Police believe this, then they should prosecute those who discriminate in this manner.

Failure to prosecute, would show selective enforcement of the law, and the Police would then be criminals themselevs.

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@anon coward

"the biggest problem isnt' getting a job but it's traveling out of the country when the police "accidently" put the wrong flag against your profile (instead of the "innocent" tag they leave a "caution" or "convicted" type flag, meaning your ass ain't going anywhere without some serious explaining.)"

No probs there, mistakes have to be paid for, and I can't imagine any police force wanting to put themselves in the dock for compensation claims, especially in the case of financial loss, and for some business deals that can run into more than any police forces budget, which you ultimately pay for anyway.

Pettyness by it's own nature has it's limits.

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Happy

Miaow

Title says it all. :)

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Easy Policing

This is all about easy policing. Having to prove people innocent etc. is such a pain. The police know every single person (except them obviously :-) ) is guilty as sin and it's just a matter of time. So, bearing in mind proving cases against everyone will take a lot of time and effort, it is simpler to employ half-wits (being nice here) and simply get them to arrest everyone. Then, rather than prove a case, let's just make the arrest an obvious example of guilt and job done.

At this rate, walking down the street with a bottle of soft drink will land you in the same position. 'I'm arresting you on suspicion of possession of an explosive device'. After a few days, they work out it's lemonade, but the arrest has happened, the DNA has been taken and the 'damage' (according to plod) has been done!!

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Anonymous Coward

Cornflour vs Cocaine

Wow, Durham police will arrest people in possession of a 'suspect' drug that it knows is not illegal, it will then use that arrest to taint that person for life?

And the principle applies to, for example, corn flour. If they don't like the look of you, and you have this suspicious white powder on you which MIGHT be drugs.... off to the station for you, your DNA taken, and a "arrested for suspicion of drug possession" goes on the record?

THIS MEANS THE POLICE CAN PUT FALSE CLAIMS on the background check. So their records show the person was arrested for suspicion of possession of C17H21NO4, when he was actually in possession of C6H10O5, which is only one molecule different.

Welcome to Britain, leave your rights at the border.

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Before the police get interested in me

I want to have my DNA removed now so that the police can't get it.

Even now, there are enough job applicants so that if a candidate's criminal record check contains anything whatsoever then you are told no thanks and they take somebody else. Really. If for instance I joined a group of people in sitting in the road to cause a public nuisance by way of demonstrating against our invasion of Iraq - I say if I had done such a thing - I might have been picked up, chucked in a van, and got an arrest record. Then again, I might have had to leave and find a loo, and then not bothered to go back.

Incidentally, I think the powers that be assume that people who attend or participate in one such event do so in all others of the same type as well, all around the country, having nothing better to do with their time, so if you want your protest to be counted properly then logically you do have to go to all of them, which is quite inconvenient. Or write to the Government. Or vote them out the next time you get the chance. Up the Tories. This country needs a new capitalist holocaust that will permanently punish and discourage the political quasi-left and the nation as a whole from bloody overseas adventures, and I mean as in bloodshed. Too many of us supported them and voted for them and so we all deserve a good hard kicking.

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Molecules: missing the point

The big issue is not whether the police understand chemistry and the circumstances under which they arrest people "on suspicion". The big issue is that the Durham police have clearly stated that having been arrested and released without charge, having your DNA on the big database could affect your future employment. They are effectively saying "this is a means of punishment which we can use against people we don't like but have not actually done anything illegal, without the unnecessary complications of a court, lawyers and people's right to a fair trial".

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WTF?

Erm...am i reading the quote wrong or.....

He adds: "They will be taken to a police cell, their DNA and fingerprints taken and that arrest, depending upon enquiries, could have serious implications for example on future job applications" (our italics).

surely this quote actually says that the arrest could have implications for future job applications, not the fact that DNA has been taken.....

if my reading is correct, then the police have talked sense....and el reg has jumped on the story because the quote contained the the text 'DNA'....

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Thumb Up

Good call

Good call, this is exactly what the article says.

The arrest (like any arrest) may have implications for your job, particularly jobs where you do have to disclose any arrests, cautions or convictions.

This is nothing to do with DNA.

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FAIL

Bad call!

The point that El Reg is trying to make and that you seem to be missing is that it is the *arrest* which is "on suspicion of possession of a banned substance"

Note the word SUSPICION there, suspicion is not proof of guilt, you still have the right to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty and if the substance is found to be innocuous, you should be released without a stain on your character.

But what the Police are saying is that it is the simple matter of the *arrest* that can screw your future employment prospects, NOT a conviction for any offence!

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Stop

I'm the AC above

I would expect police to arrest someone with suspicious white powder like this.

The fact that you may have to explain (or at least disclose) the arrest is nothing to do with having your DNA taken, or the offence that you were arested on suspicion of. Of course you are innocent until proven guilty, this is *why* you are arrested "on suspicion".

Having to disclose arrests for certain jobs is nothing new.

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Anonymous Coward

Best drug ever

That is all.

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Thumb Up

Bubbles?

It's ok, but not so brilliant as all that. Nice clear head the next day, which is a pleasant bonus. And still legal, also a nice bonus.

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Alert

Implications of being arrested

The US says: "Travelers who have been arrested or convicted of an offense are required to apply for a visa; they are not eligible to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program."

Note it's an 'or', not an 'and'.

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Homeland Security...

...they're not really the fault of Durham Police!

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Anonymous Coward

The Police vs. The Law

Our legal system is such that we have what may be termed common law. The whole of the law fits together to make one big law. There is legislation and there is case law, and nobody, but nobody can know it all. Some people think this is a bad thing because unlike a system of administrative certainty it is sometimes hard to know whether something is legal or not.

The police are often detractors of our legal system. Having such a complex system does sometimes make it difficult for the police to do their jobs, but that's why we have the CPS. It's not up to the police to decide whether there is a case to answer, it's up to the CPS. It's then up to the courts to decide if the accused is guilty. And we have all sorts of stages of appeals beyons that in order to try to make the system foolproof in the long term. The police will sometimes use this complexity to try to excuse bad practice, look at the crap about photographers and section 44.

One thing that some of the posters need to understand is that arresting somebody is a long way from charging somebody. Suspicion of possesion of a controlled substance is grounds for arrest. Until that substance has been tested the police can't know if it's a controlled substance or not. If it's not then you will be released, if it is then you may be charged or cautioned.

Now one of the hideous mistakes our current government has made in legal terms is the enhanced CRB check. If you've ever been arrested but not charged that may well show up on an enhanced CRB check. If you are applying for a job which requires enhanced CRB clearance then this may well affect your career prospects. Nothing to do with your fingerprints or your DNA sample, just the fact that you have been arrested.

Your headline is therefore misleading, but the message remains the same: What Nulabour have done to our legal system takes it back hundreds of years. No longer do you have to be found guilty by a jury (or even a panel of magistrates) to be punished. You can now be punished simply because you have been arrested, even if the police do not subsequently find any evidence of wrongdoing. Hopefully sooner or later somebody will sue a police force over the harm that this has done to their career. If somebody does and they win it will make forces think more carefully about their policies on arrest. The government will still claim the whole CRB system is a good thing and use police forces as a scapegoat in such a case.

The fact that Durham police state you will be arrested for possesion of a legal substance puts them on very dodgy ground. It would be interesting to see what they are writing down in their paperwork to justify the arrest.

It could be that this particular idiot has misunderstood the situation or not explained it very well. What he could be trying to explain is that, if you get arrested for carrying a suspicious substance which subsequently turns out to be legal then that will still go down on your record and crop up on any future enhanced CRB check. Which is true enough, although that doesn't make the enhanced CRB check any more fair. OTOH if he is saying that they will deliberately arrest somebody for carrying a legal substance then he is stating that Durham Police are creating their own laws or to put it another way breaking existing laws.

Anyhow, the story really has cock all to do with DNA.

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Black Helicopters

@Eddie Edwards

"We decided that even though he wasn't committing a crime, we didn't like what he was doing, so we arrested him".

What, like "looking at me in a funny way", or "coughing without due care and attention"? Or "walking in a loud shirt in a built-up area during the hours of darkness", or my fave "walking around with an offensive wife".

Think earlier AC (Suspicion) may have been right about the chief constable ...

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Headmaster

Absolute offences

What seems to be missing from the comments is the influence absolute offences play in how people are treated within the law.

To my knowledge (feel free to correct me) there are two offences considered absolute, where the primary burden of proof shifts to the defendant; possesion of a controlled substance and posession of child pronography. You either have to prove it is not an illegal substance (for drugs) or that it was effectively planted on you (for both).

Having a bag of unmarked powder or pills will raise suspicion and until proved otherwise, it will probably be assumed it is an illegal substance.

As to what happens when you are proved incocent, the government decreed that DNA and fingerprint records could be taken when you are arrested and kept for however long they choose. Maybe the EU can bring some sanity to this part of the equation.

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Silver badge

@Absolute offences

The expression AIUI is actually "Strict Liability Offences" and there are plenty more of those in UK law than the two you mention.

Originally the idea was that they would stop employers from avoiding responsibility for injuries to workers by claiming that nobody was personally responsible for the accident (no "mens rea" or "guilty mind", so nobody could be charged so, quite rightly, the law was changed to make the business as a whole responsible.

But now there is, of course, the law regarding "extreme pornography" where simply possession of an image is enough to prove guilt *unless* you can prove that you were a "direct participant" in what was being done. Another examples is selling alcohol to a child (hence all those "challenge 21" stickers) because the retailer has to prove that they did *not* sell alcohol to a child.

The Government loves Strict Liability offences because they make getting convictions so much easier even though they are a clear breach of Paragraph 2 of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights which say you have the Right to be Presumed Innocent...

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What's the issue?

AC (12.20) wrote: "if my reading is correct, then the police have talked sense....and el reg has jumped on the story because the quote contained the the text 'DNA'...."

Not quite, although I appreciate why you and one or two others have said this.

When I read the release, I thought that the way the sentence was structured, a PR COULD argue that a totally literal interpretation of that sentence was as you have suggested.

However, there are two issues with this reading. First, it merely pushes the issue one step further back: if being DNA tested is not career-damaging, but being arrested is, then that is equally wrong.

However, there is also the textual crit perspective to have a go at. It is fairly clear that this passage is intended to warn people off mere possession of a substance, even if possession is legal. It is police going beyond simple "enforce the law" territory into something else.

The language is fairly oppressive: you will be "taken to a police cell" is clearly there to emphasise the heaviness of what may happen. Then DNA. And to cap it all, there is going to be a consequence to the arrest (of which the cell-holding and DNA stuff is a part).

SO I am less certain that one can exculpate the police quite so easily.

If you want my honest view of what is going down here, I think that someone middle-ranking realised that they could not brandish the law...so decided to shift into threat territory without thinking first: without thinking that their remarks might have consequences in respect of other policy issues.

This whole set-up seems difficult to me. As others have observed: if you are found in possession of a bag of white powder, chances are, the police would (rightly) want to know more. Happened to a (medical) friend of mine many years back when he was caught cycling round Cambridge in possession of a back of aspirin powder.

But just rethink that particular section.

How would you react if the police issued a warning as follows.

At halloween, people have been known to wander the streets carrying flour. This is a white powder and, since it COULD be a drug, anyone found in possession of said white powder will be locked in a police cell, have their DNA taken, arrested.

Is that really what we, as a society, want?

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Black Helicopters

extended CRB

While the CRB check has your convictions on it doesn't the E-CRB have all interactions with the police on it, no matter how spurious? And while the DNA may *may* be removed from the database in 6 years, the fact that it was taken will still be there.

So all these yoofs they're arresting just to get DNA are going to be screwed in a few years as about half of the bogstandard developer jobs I was interviewing for wanted the CRB and 2 wanted the E-CRB, not even jobs in kid-related areas.

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Stop

Baking

I'm doing some baking at the weekend, do I need to make sure my flour and baking soda are certified drug free before I leave the supermarket?

Hopefully someone will wake up and see that being arrested or accepting a police caution as a youth should not result in a life sentence via enhanced CRB check.

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Alert

How long

My brother when he was a teenager was accused of sexual assualt (He didn't it was his friend who ran off after lifting some womens skirt). He was put on a police database. Some years later someone was assaulted in the area he lived in and anyone who was on the database was interviewed and a swab taken which included my brother.

I would like to know if he can now have his DNA removed from the database or not.

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Things which make me glad not to live in UK.

Police state and all. That's not what living is about. Why should a people live in perpetual fear of inadvertently being arrested?

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Anonymous Coward

Police State

This is damn close to "police state" treatment. "We don't like what you're doing, so we'll arrest you".

Sadly, most people in this country don't give a damn. As long as they don't want to take E or hunt, they'll let those people go to prison and don't care. Something like 2/3rds of the population approved of 90 day detention without trial (presumably because they think that it will only be non-white people who are likely to be affected).

Never had any sympathy for the anti-hunt brigade being stuffed full of people who had spent 18 years being fully signed up to the war on drugs, the Video Recordings Act and numerous Criminal Justice Acts.

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Anonymous Coward

This rings a bell from somewhere.

I can't decide whether this reminds me of the past (Fascism) or the future (Gattaca).

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Grenade

And they wonder why they are loosing our respect??

Its Not the Polices Job to dislike stuff!

Its there job to uphold the law.

anon because this disgusting police state stinks.

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Silver badge

Packets of Glaze

I've brought several kilograms of ceramic glaze into the UK from the US before now. I did wonder what would happen if someone decided to check my suitcase containing all these interesting bags of (mostly white) powder. Fortunately none did, and it's an answer I'm happy not to discover.

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Anonymous Coward

Implications of being arrested

The police are just being honest (and probably trying to reduce the amount of time wasted dealing with people who use the 'legal alternative'). I mean how would they know at the time it wasn't MDMA. Also presumably the drug in question has a) never been tested and b) potentially has the same impact (mildish) as ecstacy or actually worse - who knows. Maybe the DNA is held as some sort of experiment to study the genetic profiles of rather foolish people ;-)

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Paris Hilton

Ah gentlefolks that be a question?

So, you see, now the discussion is getting back ontrack we can indeed see potential for harm even years afterwards?

One imagines that governance bods consider the laws quite adequate and without hidden consequence.

On the other hand those employers or individuals wishing to invoke legalistic criteria can do.

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Big Brother

Relax

This will sort itself out when we've all been arrested and job applicants will all be equally unsuitable...

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"One molecule different"?

What the heck is that supposed to mean? Let's not use the example using the closely related carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, we have a whole molecule to play with! Water is one molecule different from aspirin, which is one molecule different from methane. Let's arrest everyone who has drunk a coke - after all sugar is just one molecule different from a banned substance...

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Anonymous Coward

Police State

As an AC said earlier, "The fact that Durham police state you will be arrested for possesion of a legal substance puts them on very dodgy ground."

What is correct in that sentence are the two words of my title. What has been allowed to happen over the course of the last 30 years, yes 30 years, Thatcher began the process with her attack on the Unions, changing the law to suit her aims, has been a serious erosion of our civil liberties by successive Governments, devolving more power to a power-hungry police force.

It has now reached the stage where they believe they can get away with whatever they choose, all outside the law, provoking trouble where there is none, and then arresting the 'miscreant' because he/she, has the temerity to question their tretament.

I am an annual attendee at a large four day Punk Festival in Blackpool every August. In 2006, there was a huge attendance at the event and absolutely no trouble either inside or out in Blackpool. The following year, the Police 'beefed up' their presence, clamping down on major offences like having a beer in the street and generally being obnoxious. Needless to say, there was then plenty of problems inside and out.

This year (2009), I was chatting to a member of the event's own security team and they informed me that the trouble in 2007, inside the venue had been caused by Police 'agent provocateur's', enabling them to justify their action. 2008 saw the same shitty attitude from 'our boys in blue' bt thankfully, this year, a new police chief for the area took a sensible view regarding policing and it was just like it had been three years earlier. Trouble free.

A young police officer told me the only trouble in Blackpool was the usual chavs getting drunk and wanting to fight, the same as it was every other weekend of the year.

This is just one example of modern day policing in action.

As Durham Police might say "We have your DNA, we have your fingerprints, we know where you live, where you work and what you like to do. Do as we say or we'll lock you up for a very long time."

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Anonymous Coward

Shaky science

'The release observes that "its chemical formula is one molecule different to ecstasy and as such dealers are claiming is not a controlled substance."

Methedrone has one oxygen atom in place of two hydrogen atoms in its (illegal) analogue. It is therefore a completely different molecule.

I can only hope that the forensics service has a better idea of what they're doing, because the Police clearly don't.

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Big Brother

Serious implications on current job prospects.

This strikes me as a senior police officer using the process of law as a threat in order to pursue a point of personal morality. The law is not a weapon to be used in this way and threatening to use it to damage the job prospects of anybody where they know no crime has been committed should have serious implication for the career of the officer making the threat.

As for the drug, it might not be illegal as a drug (yet) but I'll bet it damages health. There are laws in place to prosecute people who sell dangerous goods to people that don't have appropriate warnings attached. My guess is non of the pushers have researched the long term effects of the drug or packaged it with appropriate warnings.

If they stick a big red warning label on its saying this substance can kill you or damage your brain, then I'm happy with that. Give the Darwin award to all users.

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WTF?

guilty until proven ... guilty even if proven innocent!

Durham police - You are guilty even if proven innocent. Is that a legal loaf of bread you are holding? oooh come withh me to the station.

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Stop

DNA?

The issue here is that your job prospects can be harmed by being arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, even if you are subsequently released without charge.

The fact that they took a DNA sample in this instance is completely inconsequential.

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Seriously, who will this affect?

Because I'm not in the habit of carrying mephedrone or any other chemicals on me, I really don't have anything to hide or fear,

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Flame

@andy gibson

Are you seriously saying that you have never walked out of a shop with a bag of icing sugar, baking powder, cornflower or even polyfiller? All of these, especially the first, may resemble cocaine enough to get you arrested if the onus is for you to prove that it is not illegal.

And don't say that because they are in a packet, this proves that they are what the label says they are. I can just see a policeman saying "Well, the label said sugar, how was I to know it was cocaine, so I let them go".

I've recently sent icing sugar to school with one of my kids for a cooking lesson in a plastic bag (they needed 50 grams or so for to top mince pies). Does this give the police enough reason to not arrest them. I can just see a novice policeman who never cooks (many people don't nowadays) who sees fine white powder that is much sweeter than granulated sugar, and assume it is cocaine because he knows no better. Arrested, DNA sampled and fingerprints taken. "Oh, sorry, the lab says it was sugar all along. You're free to go, and the DNA profile will only remain on the database for six years, so nothing to worry about."

Grrrrr.

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Anonymous Coward

Buy store bought Mozzarella

Never, ever make Mozzarella then, it requires vitamin C powder to make fresh, and the danger to your future employment is not worth the creamy cheesy taste!

Man, first they came for the legal drug users, but I was not a legal drug user so I didn't speak up.

Then they came for the Mozzarella makers, but I used store bought, so I didn't speak up.

Then they came for my sherbet dip, and there was nobody but anonymous cowards left....

*******

If Jacqui Smith dies tomorrow, I would put flowers on her grave....

.... and balloons, and some streamers and garlands and they'll be nibbles featuring fresh mozzarella, and sherbert too! You bring the booze, I'll lay on the band, we'll part-ay!

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Silver badge

m&ms

A friend spent a couple of hours at the police station because he had bought a bag of yellow m&m candy from a bulk food store. He was standing waiting for a bus, popping them in his mouth when a cop car pulled up. The cop thought they looked like some kind of pill.

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Elimination

What about all those guys, who when there was a 'big' rape investigation, were asked to, erm, come forward and provide DNA to eliminate them from the enquiry. 10-20,000 were done. are they now "he's on the database so must be suspicious" ?

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Big Brother

Regardless...

...of whether mephedrone is harmful or not, this jumped-up Barnard Castle jack-in-office appears to be stating categorically that the police will arrest you even if they know for a fact that you are not in any way contravening the law. As noted, that should be treated as a wrongful arrest, and at least grounds for some form of disiciplinary action.

BB because...oh, come on, do I really HAVE to spell it out?

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Paris Hilton

So when did the Police become psychic?

I dislike the wording but cannot say it is wide of the mark. If they suspect you have a drug on you that might be a controlled substance then what do you expect them to do, exactly?

The police have access to basic drugs testing kit (Marquis reagent if memory serves?), but it would be worth knowing whether it is accurate enough to distinguish between mephedrone and ecstacy. I suspect not.

According to a number of comments here, the story should go as follows; PC 1234 Bobbins stops the local dealer, points to the bag of Bad Drugs(TM) in his hand and asks "What's all that then?". Dealer tells him, "It's mephadrone, innit." Having read the comments section on The Register, PC Bobbins decides the dealer must be legit and above-board, and decides to back off before he brings the walls of democracy crashing down about his highly polished, liberal-grinding, hippy-stomping jackboots.

Two things;

(i) the police officer has no way of distinguishing between drugs on the street beyond visual consistency and experience unless they have one of the drugs testing kits, and even then it may still give a 'false positive' (though I would guess it's actually a 'positive positive' in this case, as the drug appears to be in the family that the kits test for).

(ii) even if they can correctly identify it, there is still the small matter of it being illegal to sell for medicinal purposes. They may wish to investigate that and I do not think that constitutes bad policing or crushing of civil liberties.

At this point, though, I agree that things go wrong. If you are cleared and released then there should be no need for the matter to affect you again. Notes kept by the Police for their own intelligence are one thing, but for the purposes of the outside world, the event should never have taken place - no comments appearing in the CRB, offence to try and compel people to answer, etc.

Paris, because she appears to be familiar with all manners of investigatory techniques.

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Anonymous Coward

@@anon coward

It's not an unheard of event at the moment, there was an article floating about the reg a year ago about it. The police not updating their records correctly to show the correct state.

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WTF?

When correctly viewed...

everything is lewd... to quote Tom Lehrer a propos censorship.

The bigger problem is, by analogy, that context is relevant... although it is increasingly apparent that the context is ignorable.

I daren't tell you how a bag of flour could be used for terrorist purposes... but, knowing that it *could* be, anyone who fancies doing a bit of home baking is in going to be up the creek without much of a paddling instrument at this rate (yes, the recipe did say "mix metaphors until smooth").

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Big Brother

Welcome to Britain

Any suspicion raised can indeed have an effect on employment possibilities and many other adverse consequences , so be good chaps and chapesses and don't do anything other than conform, be compliant, bend over and take it, not complain, be good girls and boys.

Take heart - Things will get better once everyone is flagged as a criminal. Shouldn't be long now.

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Anonymous Coward

police state

Just a thought..... Criminality tends to occur not just where people don't want work, but where they can't get work, for whatever reason. One of the groups that statistically find it hardest is those released from the clink, and even cynical commentators regularly point out that a good chunk of recidivism comes from the inaccessability of work for people released after serving their sentence.

I'm no expert, and certainly have little faith with social workers or those running day release schemes for dangerous psychopaths, but do we really want to extend this prejudice to those who aren't actually guilty of an offence, but end up largely unemployable ?

Do you do politics ? Do you need an E-CRB for your job ? Then on no account go to any protest, no matter how peaceful. If you're arrested you know what happens next......

As pointed out elsewhere, don't forget that this doesn't just affect your domestic employment chances, but your holiday destinations too. USA and visa waiver ? Forget it if you've ever been arrested. Not that you'll ever get a holiday, since if you're affected by this, there'll be fewer and fewer jobs to apply for. More than one senior cop has suggested that CRB's/E-CRB's should be extended to just about all employment.

Go to theyworkforyou.com and vent long and loud at your MP. Then keep venting.

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Although

Of course, if it wasn't a molecule different from MDMA but very very similar, particularly in its effect on the human mind or body, they wouldn't be selling it in dark alleys in little pills / powder / bottles / whatever.

There was a similar problem with the Dangerous Dogs Act, they didn't adequately specify a dangerous dog. Some dogs claimed it just didn't apply to them because they weren't of the dangerous breeds.

Maybe the solution is to feed the pills to the dogs and see what happens. Anything that makes a dog sick or dead or mental would be illegal, and we'd get rid of the dogs. Although that way we also would be banning chocolate...

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