Drug addicts should be allowed to take free heroin, a senior police officer has said.
Mike Barton, Chief Constable of Durham Police, told the Mail on Sunday of his intentions to use police funding to provide the Class A drug to addicts twice a day in a supervised ‘shooting gallery’.
His plans have been panned by critics who fear that it will consign addicts to a lifetime of addiction.
Neil McKeganey, of the Centre for Substance Use Research, described the suggestion of police funds being used in this way as “extraordinary”.
“Once you set up a centre like this, it will attract addicts and they will remain dependent on heroin, undermining services committed to getting people off drugs”, he added.
The Mail on Sunday derided Mr Barton’s plans and said the job of the police was to “uphold the law” and not to “actively help people to do something that would be illegal in other circumstances”.
However, Mr Barton called for the UK to get over its “moral panic about giving people heroin as part of a treatment plan”. “Police were set up to prevent crime, not to arrest people”, he claimed.
Durham Constabulary aims to provide a service known as Heroin-Assisted Treatment (HAT).
It has commissioned an ‘options paper’ to be produced by public health experts to investigate the likely costs associated with the plan and different ways it could operate.
Addicts who are referred to the HAT service would receive access to pharmaceutical heroin known as diamorphine through the NHS.
Mr Barton has provoked controversy in the past after previous statements in support of the decriminalisation of Class A drugs.
In 2014, he told a BBC news programme that providing drugs to users would “take the money out of the business”.
Speaking on a local news programme, Inside Out, he told viewers: “We should provide the heroin, the state should provide the heroin, and we take the £600 out of the drug dealers’ pocket.”