20/09/2017 10:55 BST | Updated 20/09/2017 11:04 BST

Prince William Discusses Drug Legalisation With Former Addicts

Prince William 'could be a useful establishment voice for change'.

Drug campaigners have applauded the Duke of Cambridge for speaking to former addicts on the controversial topic of legalising drugs.

William asked three individuals, helped by drug addiction charity the Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT), about the “big dangers” of lifting the ban.

Prince William did not give his personal opinion but appeared to be on a fact finding mission, telling the trio that after meeting them and touring the SCT in Shoreditch, east London it was a question I “had to ask”.

He asked the recovering addicts: “Can I ask you a very massive question - it’s a big one - there’s obviously a lot of pressure growing in areas about legalising drugs and things like that. What are your individual opinions on that?

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The Duke of Cambridge speaks to clients of the Spitafields Crypt Trust charity, including Heather Blackburn, Jason Malham and Grace Gunn

“I know it’s a big question, but you seem like the key people to actually get a very good idea as to, you know, what are the big dangers there - what are the feelings?”

Prince William’s interest in drug laws was applauded by Transform’s Steve Rolles who said he could become a “useful establishment voice for change”. 

Heather Blackburn, 49, said she thought the legalisation of drugs was “a good idea” and that money was wasted on drug laws.

She said “most of the people I’ve known in recovery... had massive trauma” and did not get the help they needed in prison.

Blackburn added that punishment would not help anyone taking drugs and would “even do more harm”.

When William asked if there needed to be more of a “social element to it”, she replied that there should be more help, such as psychiatrists, so people could turn their lives around earlier.

The Duke added: “So prison doesn’t tackle the root cause of why someone is taking drugs?”

Blackburn replied: “No, it just punishes what you’ve done, not the reasons why.”

Recovering alcoholic Grace Gunn, 19, told the future king she is “a true believer people who end up in these places, we’re damaged people”.

“Whether that’s through trauma or our relationship with parents or family or carer, and I think... there has to be money in mental health therapy.”

“You can’t have two-year waiting lists for trauma therapy - I’ve been waiting five years,” she added, while insisting that drugs cannot be eliminated from prisons.

Gunn is training to be a midwife and, in one of the trip’s lighter moments, Prince William joked that the upcoming birth of his third child meant she might see him again sooner than she thought.

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The Duke of Cambridge speaks with volunteer and former client Bernard Bristow during his visit to the trust in St Leonard's Church in Shoreditch

Jason Malham, 45, a recovering heroin addict originally from Melbourne, Australia, said: “Personally, I believe that they should not be made legal.”

Prince William described his visit to the addiction charity as “a very useful little snapshot, telling those he spoke to:  “You guys have seen it and it’s affected your lives in ways I can only imagine, so it’s very interesting to hear that from you.

“Talking to you and being here, it feels like a question I had to ask, I appreciate your honesty.”

For more than 50 years SCT has provided services for addicts who are usually rough sleepers, something William is likely to have come across in his support for the homeless charities Centrepoint, in his role as patron, and The Passage.

William’s brother Prince Harry was sent to a drugs rehabilitation clinic in 2002 after he admitted drinking alcohol when under age and smoking cannabis.

The Prince of Wales was believed to have sent his son to visit Featherstone Lodge Rehabilitation Centre in Peckham, south London, where he talked to heroine and cocaine addicts.

The Government said in its drug strategy published in July: “We have no intention of decriminalising drugs. Drugs are illegal because scientific and medical analysis has shown they are harmful to human health.

“Drug misuse is also associated with much wider societal harms including family breakdown, poverty, crime and anti-social behaviour.

“We are aware of decriminalisation approaches being taken overseas, but it is overly simplistic to say that decriminalisation works.”