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End war on drugs, says police chief

Source BBC News@ tienganhvui.com


Syringe and heroin powderMike Barton compared current drugs policy to the alcohol prohibition era in America


Class A drugs should be decriminalised and drug addicts "treated and cared for not criminalised", according to a senior UK police officer.


Writing in the Observer, Chief Constable Mike Barton of Durham Police said prohibition had put billions of pounds into the hands of criminals.


He said a controlled environment would be a more successful way of tackling the issue.


Mr Barton suggested this could be done through the NHS.


'Route of supply'

The chief constable said he believed decriminalisation of Class A drugs would take away the income of dealers and destroy their power.


He said: "If an addict were able to access drugs via the NHS or something similar, then they would not have to go out and buy illegal drugs.


"Buying or being treated with, say, diamorphine is cheap. It's cheap to produce it therapeutically.


"Not all crime gangs raise income through selling drugs, but most of them do in my experience. So offering an alternative route of supply to users cuts their income stream off.


"What I am saying is that drugs should be controlled. They should not, of course, be freely available."


Mr Barton compared drugs prohibition to the ban on alcohol in the US in the 1920s which fuelled organised crime.


He said some young people saw drug dealers as glamorous gangsters and envied their wealth.


The officer said drug addicts must be treated and cared for and encouraged to break the cycle of addiction - they did not need to be criminalised.


Groups on radar

He said: "I think addiction to anything - drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc - is not a good thing, but outright prohibition hands revenue streams to villains.


"Since 1971 [the Misuse of Drugs Act] prohibition has put billions into the hands of villains who sell adulterated drugs on the streets.


"If you started to give a heroin addict the drug therapeutically, then we would not have the scourge of hepatitis C and Aids spreading among needle users, for instance. I am calling for a controlled environment, not a free-for-all."


He said if the "war on drugs" meant trying to reduce illicit supply then it had failed.


There were 43 organised crime groups on their radar in the Durham Constabulary area alone, he added.


Mr Barton is among a small number of top police officers in the UK who have called for a major review of drugs policy.


Danny Kuschlick, of campaign group Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said: "We are delighted to see a serving chief constable who is willing to stand up and tell the truth - prohibition doesn't work."





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