Martha Fernback's mum says it's time for drug dealer to make amends

Martha Fernback

Alex Williams

Anne-Marie Cockburn

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Senior reporter. Call me on (01865) 425373

THE mother of Martha Fernback says she is willing to meet the teenager who supplied the lethal dose of ecstasy that killed her daughter.

Yesterday Alex Williams avoided jail and was handed a community sentence by a judge who said she understood the “despair” caused by the 15-year-old’s death.

But speaking after the hearing, Martha’s mother Anne-Marie Cockburn, from Summertown, said the UK’s drug laws needed reforming and she could work with the 17-year-old defendant to raise awareness.

She said: “I hope he decides to make a positive change and give something back to the world. He is still young enough to make amends in his life.

“Alex Williams shouldn’t have done what he did, but I can’t hold on and just be angry for the rest of my life.”

Miss Cockburn, 43, added that she was not only willing to meet Williams, but also work with him to try to change people’s minds about legalising and regulating some drugs.

She said: “If he is willing to work with me, then together we could raise awareness.

“I personally feel that the war on drugs in the UK is not working. I think as a nation we need to look at it and be more realistic about it.

“Martha was a middle-class girl in a north Oxford school and look what happened.

“That shows what the current drug education and legislation leads to. There has got to be another way, because the current way is not working.”

Williams, of Sycamore Road, Botley, Oxford – who can be named after the Oxford Mail successfully challenged reporting restrictions – admitted one count of possessing MDMA, a Class

A drug also known as ecstasy, and supplying it to a schoolgirl on July 17 last year.

David Povall, prosecuting, said he sold about 1g of the banned substance – worth around £40 – half of which ended up being taken by Cherwell School pupil Martha.

This led to the 15-year-old collapsing in Oxford’s Hinksey Park and being airlifted to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Headington where she was later pronounced dead.

Mr Povall said unknown to either Williams or his customers, the drug Martha took was of “exceptionally high purity” at 91 per cent and caused her death from MDMA toxicity.

The barrister added that when he was arrested and urgently questioned by police officers trying to discover if there was more of the dangerous drug in circulation, Williams made no comment.

Passing sentence, Judge Mary Jane Mowat told him: “In part because of your actions a 15-year-old girl lost her life.

“I have read a statement from her mother and as the mother of an only child myself in Oxford, every part of me resonates with the despair she describes – and her incredulity at the folly of youth, and of those willing to indulge in street drugs not knowing what is in them, where they came from or what the potential dangers could be.

“They always know better. Well, maybe this case will go some way towards persuading some children that they don’t.”

Alasdair Grainger, defending, said his client had no previous convictions and had only supplied the drug on one occasion.

Williams received a youth rehabilitation order, with a three- month curfew, a restorative justice requirement and 18 months of supervision.

He will also have to pay a £15 victims’ surcharge.

LEGAL CHALLENGE

ALEX Williams can be named in the media today after the Oxford Mail successfully challenged a reporting restriction.

An order was made under Section 39 of the Children and Young Person’s Act (1933) banning the publication of his identity at an earlier hearing.

But yesterday at Oxford Crown Court Judge Mary Jane Mowat lifted the restriction after reading a letter and hearing submissions from the Oxford Mail.

It was argued that Williams had already been named in an earlier story and such restrictions should not be automatic just because a defendant is under 18.

The Oxford Mail also said that in this particular case there was a public interest in naming him and it will act as a deterrent to other young people getting involved in drugs.

Comments (4)

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12:25pm Tue 11 Mar 14

train passenger says...

This is incredibly brave. I agree with her wholeheartedly. Unfortunately the psyche of the average person in this country (and many other countries) won't allow legalisation to happen. We continue to think of drugs as bad things that must be made illegal and fought by all means. Meanwhile alcohol, which is as bad for your health if not worse, continues to be freely available on every street corner. Legalisation of drugs is one of those areas where rational debate seems to be virtually impossible.
This is incredibly brave. I agree with her wholeheartedly. Unfortunately the psyche of the average person in this country (and many other countries) won't allow legalisation to happen. We continue to think of drugs as bad things that must be made illegal and fought by all means. Meanwhile alcohol, which is as bad for your health if not worse, continues to be freely available on every street corner. Legalisation of drugs is one of those areas where rational debate seems to be virtually impossible. train passenger
  • Score: 1

2:51pm Tue 11 Mar 14

King Joke says...

To be fair access to alcohol is being persistently tightened up, with the same result - consumption, and abuse, continue to climb.

You're spot on about drugs. They should be legalised, regulated and taxed, even the hard ones. You just regulate the hard ones much more strictly than the soft ones.
To be fair access to alcohol is being persistently tightened up, with the same result - consumption, and abuse, continue to climb. You're spot on about drugs. They should be legalised, regulated and taxed, even the hard ones. You just regulate the hard ones much more strictly than the soft ones. King Joke
  • Score: 1

4:04pm Tue 11 Mar 14

Dr Martin says...

No that would not be a good idea
No that would not be a good idea Dr Martin
  • Score: 0

5:42pm Tue 11 Mar 14

robbo81 says...

I don't think legalising all drugs would be a good idea. But I advocate the legalisation of softer drugs such as marijuana and the decriminalisation of mushrooms etc.

But as the article states there will always be the folly of youth, younger doing what they want. Unfortunately doing as much ecstasy as they want isn't a good idea.

One thing I noticed on this article though was the comment about being middle class - perhaps that's one of the reasons this happened and why it has gotten the coverage it has done. The amount of young people who dabble in drugs is massive. I think way more than people realise and definitely more than parents want to realise. But I always felt that when growing up if you working class (which I'd identify with) drugs were more at the forefront of your parents minds. You were lectured about their dangers because they knew you'd come in to contact with them. When I was at school I knew loads of kids who took drugs, sadly some of those passed away. Yet when I got to uni I was quite surprised by the lack of people who had tried some drugs and many I'd class as coming from middle class families and they'd had private educations.
I don't think legalising all drugs would be a good idea. But I advocate the legalisation of softer drugs such as marijuana and the decriminalisation of mushrooms etc. But as the article states there will always be the folly of youth, younger doing what they want. Unfortunately doing as much ecstasy as they want isn't a good idea. One thing I noticed on this article though was the comment about being middle class - perhaps that's one of the reasons this happened and why it has gotten the coverage it has done. The amount of young people who dabble in drugs is massive. I think way more than people realise and definitely more than parents want to realise. But I always felt that when growing up if you working class (which I'd identify with) drugs were more at the forefront of your parents minds. You were lectured about their dangers because they knew you'd come in to contact with them. When I was at school I knew loads of kids who took drugs, sadly some of those passed away. Yet when I got to uni I was quite surprised by the lack of people who had tried some drugs and many I'd class as coming from middle class families and they'd had private educations. robbo81
  • Score: -3

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