Durham chief constable advocates free heroin for users

A heroin users prepares his fix in a Danish 'consumption room' A Danish "consumption room" where heroin addicts are given special cubicles to prepare and administer their fix

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The suggestion that the government should be giving drug addicts free heroin is controversial enough.

The fact it's being made by a serving chief constable is remarkable and guarantees the idea can't simply be dismissed.

Mike Barton, who leads Durham Constabulary, travelled to Copenhagen to see "consumption rooms" where addicts bring their own drugs.

They are supplied with clean needles and a safe environment in which to get their fix.

Start Quote

I've got 1,700 registered heroin users in my force area, I've got 1,200 cops. Telling officers to arrest people till it stops just isn't practical”

End Quote Mike Barton Durham Chief Constable

A nurse is on standby in case of overdose, and by regular contact the aim is to help users get into rehab.

On Inside Out (BBC One North East & Cumbria, Monday, 24 February, 2014 at 19:30 GMT) the chief constable says you can go further than the Danish system and put drug dealers out of business by choking off demand on the streets.

He claims that providing free heroin means users would not have to turn to crime to line the pockets of the dealers.

However, he says it would still be tough love as, in return, users would be expected to sign up to a programme to kick their habit.

Policeman or social worker?

He doesn't expect his idea to be popular and in the programme he meets one of his fiercest critics, Peter Hitchens.

The Mail on Sunday columnist berates Mr Barton for trying to be a social worker rather than a policeman, saying he should pursue possessors.

Mike Barton in conversation with Copenhagen's police chief Mike Barton meets his Copenhagen police counterpart

"Your job is to enforce the law," says Mr Hitchens.

As Mr Barton puts it: "You might not like what I'm saying, but at least let's have a debate about it."

As always, your comments are welcome here on the correspondent blog. Add yours below.

Inside Out is broadcast on Monday, 24 February, 2014 at 19:30 GMT on BBC One in the North East & Cumbria and for seven days afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.

Chris Jackson Article written by Chris Jackson Chris Jackson Presenter, Inside Out, North East & Cumbria

Inside Out returns for a new series in 2015

Inside Out returns for a new series in 2015 but Chris Jackson's blog is coming to an end and he can now be found on social media.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Most of what Mike says could translate as an extension of a previously successful strategy the prolific and other priority offender strategy.one area I would disagree with is his statement that 50%of his work is public safety, justifying his proposal. That is not in my view the same as public health which he seems to translate from safety.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    My sisters where both drug addicts my husband and mother died from alcohol so I like to think I know a bit about this topic.
    It sounds wonderful, a place for addicts to take drugs safety but the truth is it not the answer. Its called enabling and supporting their drug dependency and the tax payer should not be funding it, tough love is called for and to reach rock bottom it has to hurt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    In my experience working for manyyears i with drug users the vast majority have had learning difficulties mental health problems etc does he think that putting someone in jail is the answer it is called pushing drugs for a reason who is more dangerous .ro society a middle class cocaine using driving a fast car outside a school a heroin user in a squat song streets of London comes toured

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    the only way this works you have to remove the drug addicts from
    the source of the drugs no drugs no addicts and its all down
    to the money and help that is either available or not available out
    there not just trying to put a plug in the leaking dam you have to
    fix that dam at the source been there done it all seen the dead
    body's and buried them the men in suits at no 10 time to listen

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I agree that the debate is needed. The dealers create violence and competition for the 'market' the money and the addicts. Addicts in turn commit crime to raise money for drugs. Switching off the need to fund a drug habit with crime reduces crime, the prison population and the despair and desolation of being an addict. Put the effort and publicmoney into rehabilitation not punishment.


Comments 5 of 26



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