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PCC backs drugs 'shooting galleries'

Source BBC News@

Ron HogRon Hogg is a former senior police officer

Drug addicts should have access to "consumption rooms" where they could inject prescribed heroin legally, a police and crime commissioner believes.

Durham PCC Ron Hogg said introducing the facilities, often referred to as "shooting galleries", would help take drugs off the streets and reduce crime.

Home Office minister Norman Baker said the government was examining similar strategies used in other countries.

Related pilot projects have taken place in Brighton, Darlington and London.

'Reduce crime'

A trial by King's College London involving diamorphine and methadone took place from 2005 to 2011.

In April, the Independent Drugs Commission for Brighton and Hove recommended consumption rooms be introduced in the city and councillors are due to consider the proposal next year.

Mr Hogg's comments come after Durham Police's Chief Constable Mike Barton called for Class A drugs to be decriminalised in an article for The Observer last month.

The Labour PCC and former senior police officer said: "The successes of trials around the world, and within Darlington, have led both myself and the Chief Constable Mike Barton to believe that using drug consumption rooms to treat heroin addiction should be explored further, certainly county-wide.

"Results published in the Lancet showed that prescribing pharmaceutical heroin in this way can reduce the use of street drugs and associated levels of crime."

'Expensive to provide'

But Public Health England (PHE), an agency of the Department of Health which works to improve people's health, said consumption rooms might not be the best way to tackle illegal drug use.

In a statement, PHE said: "These facilities would be expensive to provide and may not be the most cost effective way of achieving outcomes for service users."

A consumption room project studied by the UK government in Copenhagen, Denmark, was deemed a success by Danish police, but Mr Hogg insisted any new pilot in County Durham would not allow addicts to use their own drugs.

"In contrast to Denmark we want the health service to provide addicts with safe heroin, with consistent purities and safe additives," he said. "We believe this will help reduce disease and death."

Mr Baker, Liberal Democrat minister for crime prevention, said government research into the drug strategies of other countries would be completed shortly.

He said: "We need to help individuals who have become dependent on drugs, recognising this is a health issue while at the same time ensuring law enforcement protects society by tackling the organised crime that is associated with the drugs trade."

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