Drug consumption rooms off the agenda

Peter James, chair of commission: ?80% of the crime that happened in the city was drug-related?
Peter James, chair of commission: ?80% of the crime that happened in the city was drug-related?

Plans for drug consumption rooms across Brighton and Hove have been dropped.

Plans for drug consumption rooms across Brighton and Hove have been dropped. The controversial idea of offering addicts a safe place to use heroin, crack, and cocaine was suggested by the Independent Drugs Commission for Brighton and Hove last year. Supporters believe regular contact would take drug use off the streets and make it easier to monitor, helping to reduce the number of drug-related deaths. But, after receiving a mixed response from policy-makers and the wider public, the idea has been dropped, with advocates citing legal and budgetary reasons. The announcement was made as the commission, led by Peter James, the award- winning crime writer, and Mike Trace, a former government adviser on drugs, published its final report on Tuesday. The report said: “Our specific recommendation for the local authorities to examine the feasibility of opening a consumption room was treated with due seriousness. “The city council and Sussex Police established a working group that looked at the need, likely impact, legal situation and practical considerations. “Their conclusion was that a consumption room was not a priority for Brighton and Hove at this time - the working group was convinced by the international evidence on the potential benefit from these facilities, but thought that they would have little impact on the types of factors that were contributing to deaths in the city. “Members of the working group were also concerned at the cost implications, in a time of budget pressure, and also advice from the Home Office that opening such facilities would contravene UK law.” Mr James, the commission chairman, said: “My own personal view is that people are always going to take drugs. Until there is some radical change it’s going to continue happen.” He added that 80% of the crime that happened in the city was drug-related, much of it lower-level crime such as shoplifting, as this was the only way addicts could feed their £50-a-day habits. However, he said there were “not only legal issues but also budgetary constraints”, adding: “I personally believe that it could be a major step forward.” Caroline Lucas, the Brighton Pavilion MP, who set up the commission, said that she was pleased that the idea was at least discussed. Speaking generally, Ms Lucas said that she was pleased that the city’s response to the wider issue had changed since she first brought the body together two years ago. Key recommendations include a call for more training for people to be able to administer a life-saving overdose antidote, more integrated services for people who have both mental health problems and drug addiction and for a separation between drug services for young people and adults so that younger users do not have to mix with more established users. Speaking after the meeting, Ms Lucas said: “Drugs policy should be founded on the overriding principle of reducing harm, both for users themselves and for wider society. Any approach has to be led by the evidence about what works in practice.”