It is not a sensational headline, it is in fact to all intent and purposes a true one. The Durham Police force is to supply heroin addicts with a medical grade form of heroin called diamorphine. This will be at the expense of the Police budget, and therefore will cost the tax paying public of Durham £15,000 per addict.

Durham`s Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg has proposed this scheme based on the evidentiary findings of a study in Darlington some six years ago by King’s College London between 2006 – 2011. Mr Hogg is quoted as saying “it really is a very sensible approach which will help them and reduce crime”. This may possibly be the case, what is not made clear however is how many addicts, given free heroin on the original programme, went on to remain or return to the addiction and therefore continued a life of crime to service their habit.

The programme this time will be offered to a small number of “prolific” offenders, and not to everyone who has a heroin addiction. This addiction can run at a cost of up to £300 per week and addicts, to fund their malaise, will commit crime. The question here is what constitutes a “prolific offender”, what is the cut-off point? Mr Hogg goes on to say the programme will be managed from six existing drug and alcohol recovery hubs based in the area.

Mr Hogg goes on to claim “it’s a cost-effective use of police money”. He adds that “the time scale and size of the project would depend on costs”, but then added that he “would like to see something in place by the end of the year”.

The Chief Constable Mike Barton backs the idea but is leaving the management of it to the PCC. This does not sound like a wholehearted endorsement of this programme and I suspect the Chief Constable is thinking he could do a great deal more with that money.

At the outset this does not sound like an idea that is too far off the scale, however questions do naturally arise from such a proposal.

Surely the supply of a synthetic substitute for heroin should come from the NHS and not the Police? The actual choice of which individual receives these ‘drugs’ would surely need careful and clearly laid out examination, conducted with the assistance of health care specialists and should not be based on their individual proliferation of crimes committed.

When the Police force start paying from their budget for drugs for heroin addicts as a crime prevention methodology one is given to a natural incredulity. One could argue that the Police force should pay for the insurance for those people who regularly drive a motor car on the road without said insurance. Why do the Police not supply new drivers venturing out onto the roads with dash-cams in order that they learn from their mistakes and therefore hopefully reduce the amount of accidents, or in fact why not give every road user a dash-cam!

You will be reading this and thinking I am stretching this too fat but is it such a stretch? The police prevent and detect crime, they bring alleged perpetrators of crime to the courts and hand them over to the legal system, job done. They cannot surely get involved in deciding who is a prolific criminal due to an addiction of heroin, then pay for and put them on a programme of synthetic drugs in the hope that they will stop offending to furnish the habit and pay for it. The modern day copper is neither qualified, nor is it in their remit to make such judgements. The police are under so much stress and strain from budget cuts, reductions in numbers of serving officers and their back room support staff, they have enough to do without also stepping in as health care workers.

It is my opinion that this is a headline grabbing policy, resurrected from six years ago by a commissioner looking for a quick fix social policy which takes his force out of their job description and, I would suspect as an ex police officer, most certainly out of their comfort zone.

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