A senior police officer has announced that his force will turn a blind eye to heroin and cocaine dealers under a new scheme.
Mike Barton, Chief Constable of Durham Police, said those unlawfully possessing drugs for supply will be sent on a rehabilitation course instead of going to court.
The scheme, thought to be the first time a British police force has decided not to prosecute dealers, has been described as “absolutely wrong”.
Barton told the Mail on Sunday: “From next month, anyone caught in possession of any drugs will go on Checkpoint. If they agree, they will not face prosecution or go to court.”
Checkpoint is a four-month-long course for offenders which they can agree to in order to avoid jail.
This is absolutely wrong. If you are an active drug dealer, you are dealing in death.
Barton added: “If they are selling heroin to feed their habit, we do not want to send them to prison.”
Elizabeth Burton-Phillips, who set up an anti-drugs group after losing her son to heroin, criticised the scheme: “This is absolutely wrong. If you are an active drug dealer, you are dealing in death.”
Durham Police have a long record of liberal drugs policies. Barton previously suggested that heroin addicts be given the drug for free in supervised ‘shooting galleries’.
That idea was described as “extraordinary” by Neil McKeganey of the Centre for Substance Use Research.
He said: “Once you set up a centre like this, it will attract addicts and they will remain dependant on heroin, undermining services committed to getting people off drugs”.
A similar proposal in an NHS Scotland report also hit the headlines over the weekend.
It calls for heroin addicts to be given free heroin to keep them “safe”.
Speaking to Scottish Daily Mail, Dr Ian Oliver, a drugs expert and former Grampian Police chief constable, said: “This is encouraging drug use and sending out the wrong message.
“We are supposed to be reducing drug use, not perpetrating it.”