29 September 2013 Last updated at 11:21
End war on drugs, says Durham police chief Mike Barton

Mr Barton compared current drugs policy to the alcohol prohibition era in America




Class A drugs should be decriminalised and drug addicts "treated and cared for not criminalised", according to a senior UK police officer.
Writing in the Observer, Chief Constable Mike Barton of Durham Police said prohibition had put billions of pounds into the hands of criminals.

He called for an open debate on the problems caused by drugs.
The Home Office reiterated its stance and said drugs were illegal because they were dangerous.
'Controlled' The chief constable - who is the intelligence lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers - said he believed decriminalisation of Class A drugs would take away the income of dealers, destroy their power, and that a "controlled environment" would be a more successful way of tackling the issue.
He said when faced with the "extremely damaging" impacts of alcohol, his argument to decriminalise drugs may appear weakened, but called for an open and honest debate on the matter.
A petition is calling on the government to follow the advice of the Home Affairs Committee and introduce a Royal Commission on drug law reform.
Mr Barton said: "If an addict were able to access drugs via the NHS or something similar, then they would not have to go out and buy illegal drugs.
"Buying or being treated with, say, diamorphine is cheap. It's cheap to produce it therapeutically.
Addiction to anything is not a good thing, but outright prohibition hands revenue streams to villains”


Mike Barton Durham Constabulary chief constable
"Not all crime gangs raise income through selling drugs, but most of them do in my experience. So offering an alternative route of supply to users cuts their income stream off.
"What I am saying is that drugs should be controlled. They should not, of course, be freely available."
Mr Barton compared drugs prohibition to the ban on alcohol in the US in the 1920s which fuelled organised crime.
Mr Barton told the Observer: "Have we not learned the lessons of prohibition in history?"
"The Mob's sinister rise to prominence in the US was pretty much funded through its supply of a prohibited drug, alcohol. That's arguably what we are doing in the UK."
'Revenue for villains' He said some young people saw drug dealers as glamorous gangsters and envied their wealth.
The officer said drug addicts must be treated and cared for and encouraged to break the cycle of addiction - they did not need to be criminalised.
He said: "I think addiction to anything - drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc - is not a good thing, but outright prohibition hands revenue streams to villains.
"Since 1971 [the Misuse of Drugs Act] prohibition has put billions into the hands of villains who sell adulterated drugs on the streets.
"If you started to give a heroin addict the drug therapeutically, then we would not have the scourge of hepatitis C and Aids spreading among needle users, for instance. I am calling for a controlled environment, not a free-for-all."


Heroin and crack cocaine users in England fell below 300,000 for the first time in 2010-11

According to UK-wide figures released on Friday by Public Health England, 120 of 6,364 newly-diagnosed HIV cases in 2012 were said to have been acquired through injecting drugs.
New laws were announced in July by Home Secretary Theresa May to allow drug treatment providers the opportunity to offer addicts foil - used as a surface to heat up drugs like heroin - as part of efforts to get addicts into treatment, and to protect their health.
The number of heroin and crack cocaine users in England have fallen below 300,000 for the first time, according to figures by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse.
The figure peaked at 332,090 in 2005-06 before dropping to 298,752 in 2010-11.
War on drugs Mr Barton said if the "war on drugs" meant trying to reduce illicit supply then it had failed.
There were 43 organised crime groups on their radar in the Durham Constabulary area alone, he added.
Mr Barton is among a small number of top police officers in the UK who have called for a major review of drugs policy.
Danny Kushlick, of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said the group was delighted to see a serving chief constable willing to stand up and "tell the truth ", that prohibition does not work.
A Home Office spokesman said: "Drugs are illegal because they are dangerous. They destroy lives and blight communities.
"The UK's approach on drugs remains clear, we must help individuals who are dependent by treatment, while ensuring law enforcement protects society by stopping the supply and tackling the organised crime that is associated with the drugs trade."
BBC News - End war on drugs, says Durham police chief Mike Barton


The actual article

Why ending the war on drugs will cut crime

Making drugs legal – but controlling supply – would stop the flow of money to crime gangs and destroy their power





'If the war on drugs means trying to reduce the illicit supply of drugs, then it has comprehensively failed.' Photograph: Julien Behal/PA



As a police officer for nearly 34 years, I have witnessed the worsening problems of drug addiction – whether it's to controlled substances or legal drugs, such as alcohol. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 has prevailed throughout my time of service, but it would appear not to have had the impact that optimistic legislators planned.
Throughout those 34 years, I have recognised that it is an indisputable truth that drugs are bad. Occasionally, a retired colleague advocates a change, but mostly politicians, professionals and the media collude in the fiction that we are winning the war on drugs, or if not, that we still have to fight it in the same way.


Their message has been successful in winning support. Indeed, I recently joined a debating society event at the University of Durham, during which I argued for the decriminalisation of Class A drugs. I felt that our team was funnier, as well as better-informed and more erudite than the opposing team, who were advocating maintaining the status quo. Imagine my surprise, my chagrin even, when the students overwhelmingly voted in favour of maintaining outright prohibition.
So, are we really winning the "war on drugs"?


Well, if the war on drugs means stopping every street corner turning into an opium den and discouraging the mass consumption of laudanum – as happened during the 19th century – then it has succeeded. But if the war on drugs means trying to reduce the illicit supply of drugs, then it has comprehensively failed.


One of my custody sergeants, who was discussing addiction at an event recently with Recovery Academy Durham, noticed the absence of a former addict we worked with called Gary, who is in his 40s and has been on drugs ever since he was 14. Gary had not been arrested recently, so it was concluded (wrongly) that "well, he must be dead". That is the shocking truth – the Garys of this world are either in prison, regularly arrested or dead. But can we not come up with a better way of helping people like him?
Not all crime gangs raise income through selling drugs, but in my experience most of them do. So offering an alternative route of supply to users cuts off the gang's income stream. If an addict were able to access drugs via the NHS or some similar organisation, then they would not have to go out and buy illegal drugs. And buying or being treated with diamorphine, say, is cheap.


Drugs should be controlled. They should not, of course, be freely available. I think addiction to anything – be it drugs, alcohol gambling or anything else – is not a good thing, but outright prohibition just hands revenue streams to villains. Since 1971, prohibition has put billions into the hands of villains who sell adulterated drugs on the streets.
If you started to give a heroin addict the drug therapeutically, we would not have the scourge of hepatitis C and HIV spreading among needle users, for instance. I am calling for a controlled environment, not a free for all. In addition, I am saying that people who encourage others to take drugs by selling them are criminals, and their actions should be tackled. But addicts, on the other hand, need to be treated, cared for and encouraged to break the cycle of addiction. They do not need to be criminalised.


The approach to banned substances contrasts sharply with our attitude towards alcohol. I am deeply disappointed that the government has not followed through on its initial support for a minimum price for alcohol. In the north-east we suffer immense inequalities in health and life expectancy due to alcohol addiction. Is it fair that alcohol-related crime and licensing costs society in my own force area alone at least £65.8m a year?

Is it sensible that in County Durham, you can buy two litres of strong cider for just £1.99? I suspect it has never seen an apple, but is more akin to industrial ethanol. Social tolerance of excessive drinking has become far too great.

While having a drink was once only one part of socialising, many people now believe that the only purpose in going out of an evening is "to get smashed". The only consequence of their night out is a horrific hangover and vomit-stained clothing.


Drug addiction costs us a fortune, but it pales in comparison to the depredations of alcohol problems. All of this fuels the increasingly distressing problem of mental ill-health. Whatever the causes, the police are now mostly the first port of call and often the only agency called on and are then expected to deal with the impact of mental ill-health on society.


Have we not learned the lessons of prohibition in history? The Mob's sinister rise to prominence in the US was pretty much funded through its supply of a prohibited drug – alcohol. That's arguably what we are doing in the UK.
Britain's police forces all map the activities of organised crime. In my force area we have 43 organised crime groups on our radar. Most of them have their primary source of income in illicit drug supply; all of them are involved in some way.
These criminals are often local heroes and role models for young people who covet their wealth. Decriminalising their commodity will immediately cut off their income stream and destroy their power. Making drugs legal would tackle the supply chain much more effectively and much more economically than we can currently manage.
My argument for decriminalising drugs may seem paper-thin when one considers that alcohol is legal and yet extremely damaging. What I am saying is that we need to have a more honest debate.
But I leave you with the optimistic words of our friend, Gary, who is now methadone- and drug-free: "The future is rosy."
Why ending the war on drugs will cut crime | Mike Barton | Comment is free | The Observer