Free drug handouts are '˜fraught with risks' say police

Police say they have no plans to follow a neighbouring force's lead over calls to hand out free drugs to addicts to cut crime.

Monday, 13th March 2017, 4:49 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:08 am
Chief Superintendent Alastair Simpson.

Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg last week said a number of options are being explored to give free heroin to drug users.

Mr Hogg said the initiative could slash crime such as thefts to pay for drugs, and would also enable health authorities treat addiction, saving lives.

But a high-ranking Cleveland Police officer said there were no plans for such a scheme.

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Chief Superintendent Alastair Simpson told a meeting of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership: “The position of Cleveland Police is we are not in line with Durham’s position on this.

“A lot of the evidence base isn’t UK based, it tends to be from other countries.

“I think it’s got some risks associated with it because substance misuse is based on addiction, so just because you can get some free from the Government doesn’t mean you aren’t going to then have that go to get a top up because you want a bit more.

“I think it would be interesting to see what happens, it is beset with risks and issues and difficulties and could go spectacularly wrong.

“I understand where Durham are coming from in terms of we’re trying to get the same outcomes.”

Hartlepool’s interim Director of Public Health Paul Edmondson-Jones said most of the evidence in favour of state drug handouts comes from Scandinavia there has been some success.

He told the meeting: “It’s going to be very interesting to see how it works.

“We have quite low success rates in terms of helping people to recovery, so I think anything that helps with that will be useful. We will watch with interest.”

He said Hartlepool offers a needle exchange to help users and make the community safer.

Mr Hogg said: “Instead of stealing in order to fund their habit, and money flowing the organised crime gangs, addicts will be helped to recover.”