North Wales PCC calls for introduction of consumption rooms

Arfon Jones: ‘UK drug policy is killing people.’

The police and crime commissioner for North Wales, Arfon Jones, has used his annual report to call for the establishment of a pilot drug consumption room in the region. ‘I am very keen in piloting what is commonly known as a “safe injecting facility” in areas of problematic drug use,’ he writes in Looking to the future: my policing objectives. A site has recently been identified for what could become the UK’s first such facility, in Glasgow (DDN, July/August, page 4), while Ireland’s new drug strategy also includes provision for a facility in Dublin (DDN, September, page 5).

The Welsh Government’s advisory panel on substance misuse is currently carrying out research into the value of a safe injection facility, the results of which will presented to public health minister Rebecca Evans soon, while the PCC report also advocates decriminalisation of drugs – for the benefit not only of ‘the user but for the wider community’. Ninety per cent of drug use ‘is recreational and causes no harm, and the criminal justice system should not be used to prosecute people’, it states. ‘Drug addiction is a disease and not a crime.’

A safe injecting facility could contribute to ‘saving lives immediately’.

Earlier this year Jones visited consumption rooms in Switzerland on a fact-finding mission, after which he issued a statement saying that UK drug policy was ‘killing people’ and that a more ‘tolerant and compassionate approach would start saving lives immediately’.

Meanwhile, a report from the Cross Party Parliamentary Group on Drugs, Alcohol and Justice sets out ten key demands on the UK government, including prioritising ‘coordinated harm reduction strategies’ to reduce drug and alcohol-related deaths, and identifying a single government minister responsible for drug and alcohol policy. Charter for change also urges the government to ‘follow the guidance’ of the ACMD, and joins the ACMD, National Aids Trust and other bodies in calling for provision of drug and alcohol services by local authorities to be mandated, with adequate resources available for effective treatment.