County police chief backs debate on Class A drugs
CALLS for a debate on whether Class A drugs should be decriminalised have been welcomed by Gloucestershire's police chief.
Durham chief constable Mike Barton caused a stir this week when he called for illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin to be made available in certain situations.
He said criminalising the drug trade had put millions of pounds into criminals' pockets, comparing the current policy to the prohibition of alcohol in 1920s America that gave rise to Mafia crime lords such as Al Capone.
He has called for a full debate on the issue.
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Martin Surl, Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire, said he approved at looking at different ways to tackle the county's drugs problem.
He said: "I welcome the debate, though it's too soon to jump to any conclusions.
"During my time as a serving police officer in Gloucestershire, I witnessed the misery and devastation caused by drugs all too often.
"Drugs ruin lives and break-up families.
"Enforcement is one of the weapons available to the police but it needn't be the only the only one and I am certainly in favour of looking at other means of tackling the problem."
Mr Barton is among a small number of top police officers in the UK who have called for a major review of drugs policy.
He 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.
"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. Drugs should be controlled. They should not, of course, be freely available.
"I think addiction to anything – drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc – is not a good thing, but outright prohibition hands revenue streams to villains."
A Home Office spokesman said law enforcement played an important role in protecting society by tackling organised crime associated with the drugs trade.
A spokeswoman for Gloucestershire police said: "This is a matter for parliament. We enforce the laws set about by government."