Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Detective Chief Inspector Chris Healey, Hampshire Constabulary


  1.  In 1972, President Nixon declared war on drugs, the hostilities having been commenced in 1961 after the Single Convention on Narcotics, a United Nations initiative.

  2.  It is apparent to all who work at the front line of street policing that the battle against drug misuse in the case of heroin has been lost, In fact, it is lost the moment the drug arrives at distribution points within the UK. That is the front line of the "battle", and losing that ground also loses the second line of defence, which is on the streets of the country.

  3.  I believe that it is time to acknowledge this fact.

  4.  Having been brave enough to admit that this second front has been lost, a competent general will choose a new field for the next battle, from which a better outcome can be expected.

  5.  Tangible evidence is in the increasing availability of the commodity, along with falling street prices and increasing "quality" of the final deal in the possession of the user. (See "Seaford House papers 1993" p 35:8)

  6.  Arresting a heroin dealer only leads to another taking his place. Arrest is no deterrent.

  7.  During September 2001, 148 domestic burglaries were reported to the police in Portsmouth, and 25 persons were arrested. It is known that 17 are heroin addicts. Of the other arrestees, it is safe to say that four committed the one burglary each.

  8.  A number of those arrested whilst committing a series of offences, were charged and remanded in custody; thus the number of reported offences was kept to a lower level. A well founded estimate within Portsmouth is that heroin addicts commit between 75 and 90 per cent of dwelling burglaries. Thus keeping to the lower estimate, heroin addicts committed 111 burglaries, leaving 37 to the rest.

  9.  An arrest of one addict can and does, have an impact on overall crime figures. The addict spends time in custody, during which he says he will be giving up the addiction. Within a short time of his release, he has resumed feeding his habit. There are innumerable examples all police officers can give. What finally stops the offending behaviour in the majority of cases is either debilitating illness or an early death.

  10.  The key to stopping the process is the reduction of the availability of the drug on the street and the provision of a viable alternative. Stopping the heroin supply without a viable alternative will drive an addict to an alternative drug. This was evidenced in the 1980s when the then drug of choice was Diconal. When effective measures were put in place to strangle the supply, addicts turned to heroin.

  11.  An element to drug treatment programmes is the substitute methadone linctus. Methadone is another highly addictive drug and addicts who go onto this treatment programme are given a second addiction, from which they also have to be weaned. Many addicts find that the linctus does not satisfy the heroin addiction.

  12.  In many cases the linctus becomes a commodity on the black market in its own right. It is often sold to make money for the purchase of heroin.

  13.  Persons in custody frequently ask a Drug Action worker for immediate access to a treatment scheme. However, the current scheme does not allow for treatment to commence for some weeks or months. In that time the addict has gone back onto the street to satisfy his craving, and rejects offers of help.

  14.  Many competent professionals working for organisations and charities run drug treatment programmes. These are generally in competition with each other for funds from a finite pot.

  15.  A doctor, on being told that it was suggested that addicts should be prescribed heroin, has said that in prescribing heroin to an addict, the addict will need more and more as the amount he is using is tolerated by his body. All persons in this field are aware of this. An addict on the street goes through the same process and if the habit is already funded by crime, an increase in crime by the addict will follow.

  16.  My recommendations are as follows.

  17.  An independent body be formed with the responsibility of co-ordinating the response of the drug treatment programmes, both nationally and locally. Those in existence require assessing to establish the most effective. The National \Health Service would appear to be the natural body.

  18.  Included in this must be the ability to treat the person shouting for help now, not in two weeks or months time. The addict does not have the luxury of time. In fairness some areas have nearly achieved this.

  19.  Addicts who are addicted to heroin, would be given heroin in the first instance, in a properly controlled environment, whilst they are being treated. This is not a call for the legalisation of heroin.

  20.  Any addict arrested committing offences to obtain money to feed their addiction, be mandated to commence treatment. Any subsequent offences committed to obtain heroin, to be treated as an aggravated offence, with heavier punishment available to the courts.

  21.  Persons arrested for the supply of heroin when scheme in place to receive heavier sentences.

  22.  The advantages of an effective treatment programme would be:

    —  an ability to improve the health of heroin addicts;

    —  an end of the necessity for the addict to obtain funds to feed their habit, by theft, prostitution or other illegal activity;

    —  reduction in the suffering of the family unit;

    —  reduction in crime rate. Burglary is just one crime which addicts commit, vast amounts of prostitution, fraud and theft from shops also occurs; and

    —  reduce funds in criminals pockets, including terrorists.

  23.  As the addicts would be treated as a person who is ill, surely the temptation will be reduced for youngsters to join in a band of sick people. This should similarly apply to the abuse of other drugs, particularly with skilful marketing.

October 2001

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