The scheme would allow heroin addicts to take the drug legally in a safe environment (Reuters)
The scheme would allow heroin addicts to take the drug legally in a safe environment (Reuters)

A police crime commissioner is backing a scheme which would allow heroin addicts to legally take drugs in special "consumption rooms".

Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg believes allowing addicts to inject NHS prescribed heroin in so-called "shooting galleries" would reduce crime and help and take users off the streets.

His comments follow Durham's chief constable Mike Barton's calls for drugs such as heroin and cocaine to be legalised and made available on the NHS in order to "destroy" the income illegal drugs provide to criminal gangs.

Pilot schemes for the consumption rooms have already been tested in Brighton, London and Darlington. Home Office minister Norman Baker said the government is looking into other techniques used by other countries such as Portugal, Canada, and Denmark to tackle drug addiction.

Hogg, a Labour PCC and former senior police officer, told the BBC: "The successes of trials around the world, and within Darlington, have led both myself and the Chief Constable Mike Barton to believe that using drug consumption rooms to treat heroin addiction should be explored further, certainly county-wide.

"Results published in the Lancet showed that prescribing pharmaceutical heroin in this way can reduce the use of street drugs and associated levels of crime.

"This doesn't mean we're going soft on drugs in any way. We are continuing to address drug dealing and organised crime groups and are not condoning drug use."

Hogg, who was a police officer for 30 years, added he believes in the scheme so much he is ready to stake his reputation on it.

He told The Northern Echo: "If it doesn't work, I'll stand up and be counted and say I was wrong.

"You shouldn't fight shy of doing the right thing because some people don't like it."

Police in Copenhagen have said they have seen a dramatic difference to the city since they allowed users to take cocaine or inject heroin without fear of arrest in their version of the consumption rooms.

Unlike in Denmark, Hogg insisted users would not be allowed to inject their own drugs, but rather those provided for them by the health service, adding this would reduce the numbers of death and diseases as a result of drug abuse.

However, Public Health England (PHE), an agency of the Department of Health, does not believe this scheme would be the best way to tackle to problem in the UK.

A spokesperson said: "These facilities would be expensive to provide and may not be the most cost-effective way of achieving outcomes for service users."