Po­lice chief: ‘Fix rooms’ ban will cost lives

Bangor Mail - - NEWS - Ar­fon Jones

A PO­LICE boss claims more peo­ple will die need­lessly as a re­sult of the UK Govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to rule out ‘ fix rooms’ for drug ad­dicts.

North Wales Po­lice Crime Com­mis­sioner (PCC) Ar­fon Jones has been cam­paign­ing for spe­cial rooms where drug users can in­ject them­selves safely and hy­gien­i­cally.

How­ever, he was bit­terly dis­ap­pointed by the UK Govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to rule them out or set­ting up a pi­lot to ex­plore the ef­fec­tive­ness of drug con­sump­tion rooms (DCRs).

But Mr Jones said he was not sur­prised by the rul­ing by Vic­to­ria Atkins, the Min­is­ter for Crime, Safe­guard­ing and Vul­ner­a­bil­ity, at a time when drug deaths are at an all­time high.

The for­mer po­lice in­spec­tor said: “The min­is­ter’s job ti­tle is a joke be­cause peo­ple who are caught up in prob­lem­atic drug tak­ing are un­doubt­edly vul­ner­a­ble and she is do­ing noth­ing to safe­guard them. Quite the re­verse in fact.

“There is no ques­tion in my mind that peo­ple will die un­nec­es­sar­ily as a re­sult of this short-sighted de­ci­sion that is based on dogma and not on com­mon sense.”

In a let­ter to West Mid­lands PCC David Jamieson, Ms Atkins re­it­er­ated the Govern­ment had no in­ten­tion of in­tro­duc­ing Drug Con­sump­tion Rooms “ei­ther on a pi­lot ba­sis or oth­er­wise”.

She said: “The Govern­ment is not pre­pared to sanc­tion or con­done ac­tiv­ity that pro­motes the il­licit drug trade and the harms that trade causes to in­di­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties.”

The North Wales PCC is a long-term sup­porter of es­tab­lish­ing DCRs. He be­lieves the war on drugs has failed and has been on a fact-find­ing trip to Switzer­land to see one in ac­tion. He be­lieves that prob­lem­atic drug use should be treated as a med­i­cal is­sue and not as a crime.

There are 2,500 dru­gre­lated deaths ev­ery year in the UK and the com­mis­sioner says that es­tab­lish­ing DCRs would ben­e­fit the in­di­vid­ual drug users and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

Mr Jones said: “There is ir­refutable ev­i­dence that drug con­sump­tion rooms can save lives be­cause the num­ber of deaths from over­doses has de­creased dra­mat­i­cally in places like Switzer­land where they have a more en­light­ened and ef­fec­tive ap­proach.

“They re­duce sy­ringe shar­ing and lit­ter which in turn re­duces the risk of blood-borne virus in­fec­tions. Im­por­tantly, they also re­duce the pressure on all the emer­gency ser­vices. Ev­ery­one is a win­ner.

“I worked as a po­lice of­fi­cer for more than 30 years and saw at first hand the heart-break­ing dam­age that drugs cause to those who are ad­dicted, their fam­i­lies and friends.

“It’s a self-de­struc­tive vi­cious cir­cle. Peo­ple who are ad­dicted to drugs of­ten steal so they can buy their next fix.

“They are ar­rested, pros­e­cuted and sent to prison. They come out of prison still ad­dicted and the cy­cle starts all over again just like a hor­ror ver­sion of Ground­hog Day.

“A drug con­sump­tion room can re­duce crime be­cause it will free up po­lice of­fi­cers to con­cen­trate on se­ri­ous of­fences whilst pro­vid­ing an op­por­tu­nity to help those tak­ing drugs to ad­dress other is­sues like poverty and home­less­ness.”

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