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

Related Stories

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 with an investigation into e-cigarettes

How safe are e-cigarettes? A new series of Inside Out investigates just what is contained in them.

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • 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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    the only reason why this is a great plan is that we can put all the
    drug addicts in one place at one time and watch over then saving
    the police the time money and effort in chasing them all over town
    its all about the costs and we have no man power to lock them all
    up or any where to put them all if we destroyed all the crops in the
    country's where the drugs come from there would be no drugs

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I have to agree with Peter Hitchens, if people were frightened of the law

    they would be reluctant to start. Drug takers can stop if they really want to,

    you cannot mollycoddle them.

    Mike Barton thinks the crooks will disappear!

    Mr Barton should speak to staff who have to look after mental patients

    destroyed by drugs,

    J. Bell

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    dear night owl.
    We did not choose to have a son with an addiction,we loved and supported him emotionally and financially,he worked full time,fighting his 'demons' all the time,looked' quite normal 'till the day he died,We all work hard to support our community.I have worked full time for 45 years and never been out of work,never claimed benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    At Last. a senior ranking officer who is prepared to come forward with what i could only describe as a fresh and pro-active approach in helping the addicts and at the same time getting those dreaded dealers off the streets. give this officer a crack at the whip and let him pull a halt to ever increasing drug related crime which causes misery to many. Got My Vote 100%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    The "war on drugs" has not existed since 1971, when the Government implemented the Wooten Report. This gave Cannabis (at least as dangerous as Heroin due to its threat to MENTAL health) the legal status of a "soft" drug. Thus began a PROGRESSIVE reduction of penalties for possession, effectively disarming the Police, as evidenced today by the capitulation of the Durham Chief Constable !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Well my ex g/f is on drugs and I am not after 11 years and
    2 kids she finally drove me round the bend after setting the
    house on fire and me in it in an effort to get money for her
    drugs Most of her friends are now dead or dying and I have
    had to moved miles and miles away to get my sanity back
    Get this she has the kids and I do not what madness is
    that I ask you So will this work u tell me

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I am a recovering alcoholic and run a recovery group, one of several ran in durham area.Where will it end will alcoholics get free alcohol? will gamblers get free money?
    Alcohol is the hardest adiction to to give up, but because the goverment recieves the tax its just hushed as a self inflicted addiction..i nearly lost my husband to be in november of last year aged 38 recovery is the way forward

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    As a police officer of 29 years I become increasingly frustrated with measures to deal with the drugs problem. The law in its present form does not work. People with this horrendous addiction don't stop to think of the consequences whilst parasitic drug dealers line their pockets. Well done Mr Barton for being a serving Chief Constable with the courage to raise this issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Mr Barton could have saved himself a trip if he'd only visited the drug treatment programme in Darlington. They had a clean room for addicts to inject themselves under supervision. It didn't work so its now closed. There are better ways to treat addicts and simply providing free drugs is not the answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Good for you Chief Constable Barton! I like your ideas, and they might just work. Nice to know someone has the guts to put forward such a contentious proposal when they are in high office. That danish girl, ravaged by drugs pushed by a parent, at 22...she looked 45. Well Mr Barton, you are in the best possible position to give opinion on this subject. You get my vote. Barton for PM!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    As a family we all suffered because of our son's addiction,sadly he died,we mourn every day,We need a man like this to stand up to these dealers,they are greedy,manipulative , very rich despots who thrive on the misfortune of others, nothing to stop them, easy money for them,police not enough resources to pursue them.yes he is controversial,it is what we need,let him try,please.he might succeed

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    As someone who worked in a large north east prison I was directly involved with drugs policy and mandatory drug testing. The costs involved in keeping drug addicts in prison and the overall costs to society caused by addicts stealing to feed their habit are astronomical. I have long advocated that controlled drugs should be provided to registered addicts in controlled conditions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I think drugs should be supplied free which would cut out most of the burglaries associated with buying drugs and it would kill the trade for drug dealers I know people will say that this is not the way to go but to me its the only way to cut down on the crime side of drugs

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Breath of fresh air common sense that's all is needed.We do it for smokers on the nhs why not any other addicts. I watched a program on America on alcoholics living rough gave them place in a flat supplied their alcohol guess what crime reduced and helped them to quit same thing in my eyes, we just cannot just ignore this as there is victims on both sides of addiction. No supply no demand simple

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    The politicians have sought answer's to this problem for years - it has got worse: The crime, the Police work, the hospital work, the public losses in robberies, the prisons: THE COST!!!
    We already give out needles and drug alternatives at great cost, there is a precedent - why not follow this precedent through and try to cut cost!
    After all is this addiction not an illness, does it need a cure??


Page 1 of 2



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.