Open letter to the Home Secretary from Richard Garside, director, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies
Dear Home Secretary,
I am writing to you about your decision to dismiss Professor David Nutt as chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
It was the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies that asked Professor Nutt to present his analysis at a lecture at King's College London in July of this year. Following the lecture Professor Nutt agreed to our publishing an edited version, which we did last Thursday. A copy of this publication, along with the press release, can be accessed on our website here. The publicity material for the lecture can be viewed on our website here.
In your letter to Professor Nutt advising him that you were dismissing him from his role, you wrote that his contribution went `against the requirements on general standards of public life' required by his position as chair of the ACMD. You went on to write:
`As chair of the ACMD you cannot avoid appearing to implicate the Council in your comments and thereby undermining its scientific independence'.
I would like to make it clear that Professor Nutt gave his lecture, and agreed to its subsequent publication, in his capacity as the Edmond J Safra Chair of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London. This is stated clearly in the original publicity and in the subsequent paper. Professor Nutt made some references to the ACMD in his paper as it was relevant to his argument. At no point did he make reference to his role as chair of the ACMD, nor did he give the impression that he was speaking on behalf of the ACMD.
I have to conclude that the public confusion between Professor Nutt's academic role and his chairmanship of the ACMD has been sowed by the Home Office, not by Professor Nutt nor by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.
Academics who advise government should feel confident that they retain the freedom to act as independent researchers without the threat of political interference or undue pressure of any kind. It is in the public interest that you clarify your thinking on this matter and I look forward to receiving your response.
Centre for Crime and Justice Studies
2 November 2009