Scottish Daily Mail
Heroin ‘shooting gallery’ blocked by chief law officer
Taking a bow, the sister act set to rival Nicola Clinic for drug addicts fails to win legal approval
PLANS for a heroin ‘shooting gallery’ have been blocked by Scotland’s top prosecutor.
The opening of a clinic where addicts could bring in their own drugs to inject under strict medical supervision had been proposed.
But Lord Advocate James Wolffe, QC, has told campaigners lobbying for the centre that ‘the public interest objective is a health rather than justice one’ – and refused to give it the legal go-ahead.
The original proposal for the ‘safer consumption’ facility in Glasgow included medical-grade heroin being administered to addicts, with an area for them to bring in their own drugs.
Under the law, heroin can be given out under tightly controlled conditions. But Mr Wolffe had been asked to grant an exemption to ensure staff supervising addicts injecting their own drugs would not be prosecuted.
Sources said the Crown Office did not want to be drawn into a row about the scheme’s legality.
Mr Wolffe has not made any judgment about whether a legal compromise could be reached.
His withholding of legal permission means the project as originally conceived cannot proceed.
Health and council chiefs will have to liaise with Scottish Government officials but the medical-grade heroin section of the centre could still go ahead.
The development is a major blow for supporters of the plan, who say it is needed because of rising drug deaths and HIV infection rates.
The Crown Office said: ‘The Lord Advocate has considered the proposals and is of the view that the public interest objective is a health rather than justice one.’
A spokesman said Government health officials will ‘offer to meet’ organisers of the clinic to ‘discuss the proposal, its objectives and how these might best be met’.
The initial plan would have allowed drug users as young as 16 to visit one of 12 injecting booths under medical supervision. Taxpayers would foot the bill of an estimated £2.4million a year.
But critics feared it would breach the Misuse of Drugs Act and United Nations conventions, and would be a magnet for dealers.
The Mail revealed yesterday that money left to the NHS in wills was spent on research for the ‘shooting gallery’. Some £100,000 had been invested in preparing for the project – even though no suitable building had been found.
The cash comes from an NHS endowment fund that is financed by donations, including bequests.
A member of the board behind the proposals raised concerns this week over the use of the cash.
The proposals are being developed by the Glasgow City Integrated Joint Board (GCIJB), which met on Wednesday. Members were told police were preparing for the centre and a QC had drawn up a legal opinion – passed to the police in the hope of bolstering the case for the clinic.
The opinion will not be published, nor has the lawyer been named. The GCIJB was unable to say how much the advice cost. Plans to develop a ‘business case’ for the unit were approved by Glasgow health and council officials this year.
Police Scotland Chief Superintendent John McKenzie admitted this week that ‘the delivery of such a facility is not achievable in the near future’, adding: ‘We will continue to work with partners and explore new ideas.’
Tory MSP for Glasgow Annie Wells said the ‘priority should be helping these vulnerable individuals turn their lives around... not keeping them trapped in a destructive cycle’.
National Records of Scotland figures show there were a record 867 drug-related deaths last year – up 161, or 23 per cent, on 2015.
The GCIJB is the decisionmaking body of the Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership. It said: ‘We will be taking some time to study and consider [the Lord Advocate’s] opinion.’
Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: ‘Drug legislation is reserved and I have written to the UK Government requesting a meeting to discuss the issues.’
‘Priority should be helping addicts’