I feel very sorry for the people of Durham. They are cursed with a very foolish Chief Constable in Mike Barton. He is a policeman on a la la land mission to hand out free heroin to addicts, a man who misguidedly believes this  will prevent addicts from committing crime to fund their street habit.

If he gets his way and he may – his equally daft Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg is backing this wheeze – Durham’s drug problem is set to get a whole lot worse.

Mr Barton is of the modern progressive ‘it’s easier to say yes than no to drugs’ school. In defiance of common sense or any attempt to safeguard children and ignoring the experience of previous liberal policing drugs disasters, Mr Barton has already given up on policing cannabis. Why? Well ‘ the war on drugs’ has failed, according to his fallacious reasoning.  It’s bound to, isn’t it, when police like him about make no attempt to enforce the law? Liberalise the law and drug use rises. It stands to reason and if you want proof, look no further than Brixton.

Every aspect of Mr Barton’s logic is flawed. He might as well give mobile phones to drivers. But if the new tough policing and prosecution of mobile phone use by drivers announced last week doesn’t have effect, I am the Pope. Drug use and dealing are no different. Brian Paddick’s catastrophic cannabis decriminalisation experiment in Brixton proved that.

Back in 2002, under his enlightened guidance, the police in Brixton were sanctioned to ignore street level cannabis offences. And what happened? An independent research assessment revealed its significant longer-term impact –  a dramatic rise hospital admissions relating to hard drug use for men by between 40 and 100 per cent. What’s more, this was concentrated among men in younger age cohorts. (My italics). It proved one thing. Go soft on ‘soft’ drugs you open the door to harder ones.

I hope the Durham hospitals, whose psychiatric wards I’d  guess are already full of cannabis addicted psychotics, are ready for this new onslaught.

Messrs Barton and Hogg might reflect on why they have a such a bad heroin and crime problem in Durham in the first place. They’ve ignored cannabis and hard drug dealers, seeing their chance, moved in, attracted by their ‘turning a blind eye’ policing?

Imagine now the effect that handing out free heroin –  in the name of delivering ‘treatment’ –  will have. Their problems will multiply.

When Harley Street doctors, back in the 1960s, began their free and easy heroin prescribing, they attracted heroin addicts and dealers from all over the world and kick started the UK’s drug problem.

And who exactly will be paying for Mr Barton’s free heroin treatment shindig? The unsuspecting taxpayer of course. For the money the NHS could sort out some of its pressing needs, proper palliative care for the dying or all those hips and heart operations in the queue.

But Mr Barton claims that ‘medical evidence’ shows heroin is more ‘effective’ than the cheaper methadone prescriptions addicts already get.

More effective for the addicts’ highs I am sure – far more fun than the hated green gloop. But don’t worry, Mr Barton proposes to restrict this treat to hardened addicts.

The source of his inspiration are the randomised injectable opiate treatment trials (RIOTT) that the NHS ran a few year back at considerable and questionable expense. I visited and reviewed them when I was working on drugs policy for Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice. Despite all the expensive personalised care and the generous thrice daily nurse administered injection of diamorphine plus nightly take away methadone, addicts still did not give up their street drug dependency. The impact on crime and street drug dependence was marginal. Administering pure heroin did not even protect addicts from ‘adverse events’ i.e. overdose incidents.

But we are not to be bothered about any of this. We need to get over our moral panic and adopt the model, Barton tells us.

Well if anything is morally dubious it is the state-sponsored addiction he proposes. An addict by definition always wants more. It does not stop addicts from continuing to abuse alcohol, street cannabis and street cocaine. Entrapped in prescription addiction they are deprived of any possibility of getting clean, which is what most want in their heart of hearts.

If the highly committed researchers who planned these trials were not bothered by any of this, they later had to concede that at £15,000 per addict per year, their efforts had not proved sufficiently cost effective for policy makers to find unacceptable.

I very much doubt whether the hard pressed taxpayers of Durham would find this experiment their cup of tea either.

(Image: Cristian C)

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