Cambridgeshire police force is set to hand out DIY drug kits containing clean needles and advice on how to safely inject heroin, but critics have labelled the scheme as “farcical”.
The so-called “Harm Reduction Kits” will be given to addicts who refuse to take part in a drug withdrawal programme as part of a week-long trial beginning next month.
Officials hope the kits will help to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis, and reduce the number of dirty needles being dumped in public places.
But former Home Office minister Ann Widdecombe slammed the scheme, saying: “We should be preventing heroin use, not sanitising the use of the drug.”
And local MP David Davies said: “I am astonished by this initiative. My understanding is that it is the police’s job to catch drug dealers and possession of drugs is also against the law.
“We should get drug users off the streets and if necessary force them to get medical help to combat their addiction.”
These concerns were reflected by Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, who said: “This is sending out mixed messages about drug use. The authorities should make their mind up whether they think drugs should be banned or not.”
Each of the kits contains three clean needles, a sharps box for the disposal of used needles and a manual on how to inject drugs safely.
However, Shelley Ward, a project support officer for Cambridgshire police, defended the scheme, saying: “The more interaction we have with drug users, the more chance we have to get them off drugs and into treatment.”
She added: “I do not want the constabulary to be seen to be helping drug users to take their drugs: it is all about keeping communities safe, and also we have a duty of care to anybody who has been in our custody.”
The kits are due to be handed out to addicts at Parkside station in Cambridge.
Last month the General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) called for drug addicts to be given free heroin on the NHS in a bid to prevent them from turning to crime.
Peter Carter said that surgeries should also set aside ‘shoot-up’ galleries, which are rooms laid out with needles so addicts can inject in private.
Mr Carter, who made the comments at the RCN’s annual congress, claimed that making heroin available would reduce crime as addicts would not need to steal to fund their habit.