Your views on controversial plan to divert drug addicts who deal from prosecution into treatment

People are divided over a police chief's scheme which will see drug addicts who sell heroin to others get the chance to avoid prosecution by taking a course.

Monday, 20th November 2017, 9:22 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 8:35 am
Those who deal in heroin to feed their own habit could avoid going before a court if they agree to take a four-month course under the scheme backed by Durham Constabulary.

Mike Barton, the Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, has said they will not face court action under a new scheme.

As part of the project, he has said those found in possession of drugs, including Class A narcotics such as heroin and cocaine, would not be prosecuted if they agree to go on a four-month programme.

Durham Constabulary's Chief Constable Mike Barton has backed the new project.

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Checkpoint follows on from a two-year pilot and aims to deal with the underlying lifestyle issues and offer access to mental health treatment.

Mr Barton has said it will allow officers to tackle the criminal gangs who profit from addictions to bring in cash.

He said: "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.

Durham Constabulary's Chief Constable Mike Barton has backed the new project.

"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?"

The programme's extension follows Mr Barton's previous calls to decriminalise Class A drugs and reform how addiction is treated.

The Government has said it has no intention of decriminalising drugs.

The Checkpoint programme has been criticised from a charity that offers support for families of those with drug and alcohol habit.

DrugFAM was launched by Elizabeth Burton-Phillips after her son Nick, who died in 2004 following a heroin addiction .

She said: "This is absolutely wrong. If you are an active drug dealer, you are dealing in death."

Readers are divided over whether the scheme will work here in the North East.

Chris Higgins said: "I can see the reasons why they've done this.

"I do think that issuing orders to go on a type of rehabilitation course is good, as it may ultimately help rid individuals of the horrendous addiction.

"An addict that gets no help will never change, and the cycle of criminal behaviour and misery for its victims goes on.

"I also can see why the police have decided to do this as the statistics will ultimately be fudged and reworded in future to say 'drugs prosecutions have fallen' when really the crimes will have just been dealt with in a different manner.

"I'd hope that if those taking the help go on to re-offend, then normal proceedings will be taken against them by the CPS."

Vicki Smilesy said: "It's about time that the authorities recognise a huge proportion of these low level dealers are in fact victims and being used to peddle drugs for the real criminals.

"The ones driving flash cars and living flash lifestyles and not sofa surfing or sleeping rough.

"Mental health assessments should be at the forefront of this programme and I welcome this change with open arms."

However, not everyone agrees with the idea.

Debra Unsworth said: "This just sums up what's going wrong in this country for Gods sake.

"Get tough on drugs and most other crimes wouldn't be so high."

Jim Ward said: "So the proposal is we will not prosecute you but openly encourage you to make more people addicted?

"Outcome is if enough people take up the habit there will be all the time in the world to persecute the motorist.

"I suppose there's some logic there, but at present I cannot see it."Maybe I should take up the habit to see things more clearly?"

Chris Wilson said: "The drug dealers will be laughing their heads off.

"I thought criminals were supposed to be prosecuted?"

Mark Sutherland wrote via Facebook: "Just like alcoholics ..they're not treated but are given extra benefits to feed the addiction."

Sarah Louise Bright added: "So they rob cars and garages off those who work hard and help themselves to what ever they want and get zero punishment?

"What a joke.

"Lock them up if they commit crime to detox them then make them do useful things like pick litter of the verges of A689 and A19, scrape chewy of the streets etc.

"Save our council some money and free up staff for other jobs."

Steven Auton Ynwa said: "They need to look a little higher up the chain.

"The drugs will always get onto the streets unless you take away the main supply this proposal is pathetic image they are trying to impress the public with..

"They need to try a lot harder to impress me unfortunately."

Darren Waddle wrote: "So they are saying that any dealer can get out of jail by claiming they sell drugs to fund their coke addiction?

"I bet every dealer now will just claim they are addicted to coke to avoid jail."