Decriminalising illegal drugs for personal use would save lives and reduce organised crime, a police and crime commissioner (PCC) has said. Ron Hogg, a Labour PCC and former senior police officer from the Durham force, says that people “are dying” while “we sit round pontificating”.
Mr Hogg would like to see a system similar to that in Portugal, which decriminalised drug possession in 2001. The law was changed to turn possession of drugs into an administrative offence, sending those caught with drugs for personal use to a ‘dissuasion board’ rather than face prosecution. Since then, Portugal has one of the lowest rates of drug deaths in Europe, whereas the UK national average is 11 times higher.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Hogg said the UK’s current approach to tackling drugs was not working and radical change was needed.
Sensible approach to drugs
Mr Hogg said: “We are never going to eliminate drugs from the street, they are always going to be there. So, what we have to do is adopt an approach which will actually reduce the harm and not stigmatise people.”
He described the approach as being sensible, rather than ‘going soft on drugs’.
“The death rates in Portugal have fallen this year, in the North East [of England] they’ve increased. While we are sitting here pontificating what we should do, people out there are dying.”
Commenting on Mr Hogg’s claims, a Home Office statement said: “This government has no plans to decriminalise drug possession. Our approach remains clear: we must prevent drug use in our communities and support people through treatment and recovery.”
Safe drugs consumption rooms
Health officials had unanimously approved proposals to establish the UK’s first safer injection centre in Glasgow last year. This would have involved medical staff legally administering drugs. Evidence has shown that these kinds of facilities that offer support and help from health professionals can reduce the risk of overdose amongst drug addicts.
However, Theresa May rejected the plans, adding that there is no legal framework for the provision of drug consumption facilities in the UK and the government has no plans to introduce them.