Police have backed plans to allow festival goers to test substances such as cocaine and ecstasy for purity before taking them at major festivals and music events.
The service, which will be offered at a string of live music events this summer is intended to identify potentially dangerous drugs, so that users can make an informed choice before taking any substances.
Festival goers will be able to take suspected illegal substances to a testing tent, where analysts from an organisation called The Loop, identify the active ingredients, before destroying the given sample.
The scheme is in response to a number of deaths attributed to illegal substance misuse amongst young people attending music festivals in recent years.
Last year, 17-year-old Lewis Haunch died after taking drugs at Leeds Festival while in the same year two teenagers died at ‘T’ In The Park in a reportedly drug-related incident.
Police leaders have said while they cannot condone the use of illegal drugs, they recognise that many young people will take them anyway and it is better if they are informed about what they are taking.
It is understood the National Police Chiefs’ Council is working on guidelines which will encourage local forces to support similar schemes at festivals and nightclubs.
Assistant Chief Constable, Andy Battle, of the West Yorkshire force, who is in command of policing at the Leeds Festival, said while officers would continue to target drug dealers, it was important they had a pragmatic approach when it came to festival goers taking drugs.
He said: “We can never condone the use of illegal drugs, but we recognise that some people will continue to take them and we need to adapt our approach in the interests of public safety.
“Consuming controlled drugs is inherently dangerous and the tragic consequences of this have been illustrated with drugs-related deaths at the event in recent years.
“We will continue to work closely with security teams to target the possession and supply of controlled drugs and the criminal law will be applied appropriately as necessary.”
Commander Simon Bray of the National Police Chiefs’ Council said before officially endorsing such schemes, they needed to understand the implications for policing and that is something which is currently being explored.
He said: “Police forces are committed to reducing the harm caused by all drugs and urge people to remember that drugs are ‘controlled’ because they have been shown to be harmful.”
He added: “We could not support initiatives that do not comply with the law or that have unintended negative consequences.
“Any proposal would need to be considered by the police force, local authority and health services with a view on it’s legal, scientific and possible health implications.”
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