UK

Shooting Galleries For Heroin And Crack Users Considered In Brighton

18/04/2013 14:59 BST | Updated 18/04/2013 15:55 BST
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Brighton could become the first place to set up rooms for people to inject drugs without fear of prosecution.

A report said the safe houses, or "drug consumption rooms" should be considered in the city once dubbed the drug death capital of the UK.

It would be similar to so-called 'shooting galleries' used around the world including in Sydney, where a Christian-run facility offers injection rooms and medical help.

Mike Trace, vice-chairman of the Independent Drugs Commission for Brighton and Hove, which compiled the report, said drugs could either be provided by medical professionals or brought in by the users.

Supporters say the bold move could take drug use off the streets and reduce the number of people dying from an overdose.

But campaigners in favour of abstinence-based treatment said the balance was "completely out of proportion."

The recommendation is one of a series of measures aimed at cutting drug abuse in Brighton. Other proposals include training more people to administer a life-saving overdose antidote and treating young people and adults differently.

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, Trace said: "We have said to the authorities in Brighton that you need to look at this because it's something that could reduce drug-related deaths - which is an issue in the city - but also because it could take a lot of public drug use and drug markets off the street."

He admitted it was a "grey area" whether the law would need to be changed.

Substance misuse in Brighton remains stubbornly high. In 2000, 67 residents died a drug-related death, with the figure now standing at around 20.

The commission said that more than 2,000 people are considered problem heroin and cocaine users and that more than 60,000 people in the city have used illegal drugs.

Rob Jarrett, chairman of the city council's adult care and health committee, said: "Brighton and Hove has had a problem with drug abuse for decades and we're determined to do something about it so we take these recommendations very seriously."

More than 90 drug consumption rooms have been set up worldwide since the mid 1980s, including in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Norway and Canada.

They are professionally supervised healthcare facilities where drug users can use substances in safe and hygienic conditions.

Brighton's council is run by the Green Party, which believes in legalising cannabis and treating substances like heroin as a public health, rather than criminal problem.

Green MP Caroline Lucas, who represents Brighton Pavilion, said the measure could be "the first step to get people on to treatment, which will hopefully get people on to recovery."

Asked if it would make Brighton a hotspot for drug-users, she said this was not in line with evidence she had seen, but added: "If that were the case that would certainly be a very good reason for not going ahead with it."

However, Chip Somers, chief executive of Focus 12, an abstinence-based rehabilitation centre which has Russell Brand as its patron, told the Today Programme: "We've got the balance between providing addicts with care and harm reduction techniques completely out of proportion and we're now colluding with really quite poor lifestyle choice and in this case illegal behaviour."