Daily Mail

Police chief who wants to let off heroin dealers

- By Chris Brooke

ADDICTS who deal illegal drugs will escape prosecutio­n under a controvers­ial police scheme.

Mike Barton, Chief Constable of Durham Police, said those found with drugs, including cocaine and heroin, would not go to court if they agreed to a four-month treatment plan.

Even dealers who are found to be selling drugs to feed their habit will not be taken to court from next month. Mr Barton, who has previously called for drugs to be legalised, claims this would allow officers to focus attention on tackling the ‘really bad’ criminal dealers.

It is the first time a British police force has decided not to prosecute dealers, who usually face a minimum of 18 months in jail.

The move follows a two-year trial of a scheme that allows addicts to avoid court and a criminal record.

Instead, they must agree to join a four-month Checkpoint programme that tackles underlying problems such as their lifestyles. Mr Barton told the Mail on Sunday: ‘From next month, anyone caught in possession of any drugs will go on Checkpoint.

‘If they agree, they will not face prosecutio­n or go to court.

‘If they are selling heroin to feed their habit, we do not want to send them to prison. They are technicall­y dealers but if they are sad people rather than bad, we want to stop their addiction. Then we can focus on the really bad people.

‘What’s the point in an addict going to court and getting a £50 fine? If they pay it at all, they will only steal or sell five bags of heroin to fund it. How does that help us?’

Elizabeth Burton-Phillips, who set up the charity DrugFAM after losing her son Nick to heroin addiction in 2004, said: ‘This is absolutely wrong. If you are an active drug dealer, you are dealing in death.’

The Prime Minister recently argued against drug reform after meeting Mrs Burton-Phillips.

Mr Barton’s views on tackling drugs are hugely controvers­ial. In March he outlined a plan to use public money to supply heroin for addicts to inject themselves twice a day in a supervised ‘shooting gallery’.

He said it would reduce crime because the addicts would no longer have to steal to pay for their fix, and dealers would lose customers.

‘We need to get over our moral panic about giving people heroin as part of a treatment plan,’ he said.

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