cambridge-news.co.uk, April 19, 2013
Drug rooms will prevent deaths and cut crime, says former police chef
A former chief constable of Cambridgeshire police has called for shooting galleries to open in Cambridge to prevent deaths and get more addicts into treatment.
Tom Lloyd, who was the county's top policeman from 2002-2005, believes the city has a drug problem that should be tackled in part by running a drop-in service - where users can safely take drugs under supervision, without fear of prosecution.
He said it would prevent, if not eliminate, avoidable deaths, encourage addicts into treatment and eventually reduce crime.
Mr Lloyd was reacting to proposals made by the Independent Drugs Commission for Brighton and Hove, which could be the first area to adopt drug consumption rooms in the country.
Developments there are being closely watched by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert, who has said the country's approach to drugs is “not working”.
Cambridge resident Mr Lloyd, who works as an international drugs policy adviser, said the criminalisation of drugs has not worked and hailed drug room projects in places like the Lower East Side in Vancouver, Canada, where drug deaths have fallen dramatically.
He said: “I think we should look at all cities for this, includng Cambridge. There is clearly a drug problem in Cambridge, although it's not such a big problem as in Brighton.
“This is about preventing avoidable deaths and diseases. People do not have to be frightened about this. Experience from around the world tells us you do not have the kinds of social disturbances that people are worried about.
“What you will have is a reduction, if not an elimination, in deaths and eventually a reduction in crime too.”
He added: “For whatever reason they have become addicts and they need treatment. They are somebody's daughter, son, father, brother and we do not want them dying.”
He said addicts are put off seeking help because what they are doing is illegal, whereas they become a “sitting target” for treatment in drug rooms.
Mr Huppert called for a “sensible approach” to drugs that is focused on reducing the harms caused by illegal drugs to “those who take them as well as the wider community”.
He said: “The approach the UK has taken has been to criminalise personalise drug use, taking addicts to court and imprisoning them.
“Despite the fact that we spend more on our drug policy than any other country in Europe we have the highest usage of some class A drugs. That approach is not working.”
On the Brighton proposals he added: “I look forward to seeing the results from this scheme and cannot see why such an approach would not help drug users in Cambridge.”
Speaking in Parliament yesterday Andrew Lansley, South Cambs MP and Leader of the House of Commons, was less keen on the idea.
The Tory said: “It is important to say that the Government will not support any actions that contravene the United Nations drugs conventions or the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
“Permitting premises to be used for consuming or possessing substances controlled under section 8 of the Act is illegal.
“The establishment or operation of drug injection rooms risks encouraging illicit trafficking and carries a significant risk of harm in local communities.”
One serving magistrate in Cambridgeshire said there are some on the front line, including his fellow magistrates and police, who say the policies are not working.
He said the drug rooms could be “a first step towards a new approach which could help to reduce the huge levels of crime, from shoplifting to gangland murders, that live off drugs”.