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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    A sensible solution from a sensible and experienced individual.
    By taking it out of the criminal elements hands AND providing the safe space lives will be saved, crime will be cut.

    Now let's see a sensible debate on all the other 'illicit' drugs.
    The fact is that the drugs are here and they are embedded into society, so who would you rather control those markets, the criminals, or the government?

  • 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 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 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 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.


Comments 5 of 26



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