Police chief says 'wider debate' is needed as she declines to back predecessor's call to legalise drugs
A new police chief has said more debate is needed over the future of drugs legislation.
Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary Jo Farrell takes on the role following the retirement of Mike Barton, who was outspoken about his call to change the approach to illegal substances.
He argued the prohibition of certain drugs pushed more money into the hands of criminals, with the vulnerable exploited by crime groups.
His views have been echoed by Ron Hogg, police, crime and victims’ commissioner for County Durham and Darlington.
This week he urged for a fresh look at policy in light of a number of Conservative leadership contenders admitting they had taken drugs.
Mrs Farrell, the first woman to lead the force, said she believes more discussion is neeeded over the issue and that it is “bigger than policing.”
She highlighted the work of Checkpoint, a programme aimed at reducing reoffending by tackling drug and alcohol problems, mental and physical health issues, housing, finances or relationships.
Mrs Farrell, who previously worked for Northumbria Police and has served with Durham for three years, said: “First and foremost it’s a health issue and we have seen some talk in the papers at the weekend around that, so policing is not going to be affective in the wider drug issue.
“Of course there’s a role around county lines and vulnerable people are being preyed on by organised criminals around drugs, but there needs to be a better debate about people suffering from drug abuse.
“There are vulnerable people in the margins of society and policing alone isn’t going address that.
She has praised Durham’s team and said she will ensure it is skilled in dealing with the latest challenges posed by digital elements of crime, with neighbourhood policing at the forefront efforts to make it a good place to live and work and the wellbeing of her staff a priority.