Published On: Sun, Nov 19th, 2017

Anger as police chief reveals he will not pursue heroin dealers

Mike Barton, head of Durham Police, said addicts selling to fund their habits would not be prosecuted if they attended a four-month Checkpoint rehabilitation programme.

He admitted it would include those selling Class A substances such as cocaine, heroin and ecstasy.

But Mr Barton insisted it would allow officers to focus on criminal drugs gangs.

He said: “From next month, anyone caught in possession of any drugs will go on Checkpoint.

“If they agree, they will not face prosecution or go to court.

“If they are selling heroin to feed their habit, we do not want to send them to prison.

“They are technically dealers but if they are sad people rather than bad we want to stop their addiction. Then we can focus on the really bad people.”

But critics argued Mr Barton was “normalising” drug use and insisted drug dealers must be punished.

Tory MP Charles Walker, vicechairman of the backbench 1922 committee, said: “I do not doubt the Chief Constable’s good intentions but it is not the job of the police to decide drug policy over Parliament.

“Criminalisation prevents people from using drugs because they are illegal. Those who argue decriminalisation will reduce use seem to pay no attention to the devastation already caused.”

Elizabeth Burton-Phillips, who set up charity DrugFam following the death of her son Nick in 2004, said: “This is absolutely wrong. If you are an active drug dealer, you are dealing in death.

“What kind of message does this send young people when they are in that reckless, experimental phase? There must be some kind of punishment.”

David Raynes, of the National Drug Prevention Alliance, said: “It is being spun by Durham who have a Chief Constable and a Police and Crime Commissioner who have pushed for legalisation of drugs. Why are we even aware they are doing it? I think there is an agenda of legalisation and normalisation.

“If Northamptonshire Police had a policy of not issuing any speeding tickets on the M1, they wouldn’t announce it.

“The only reason we would hear about it is because it might help to serve an agenda.”

A Home Office spokesman said the Government will not decriminalise drugs, adding: “It is vital the police and criminal justice system have a range of measures available to prevent drug use. “However, they also have the tools to deal robustly with serious and repeat offenders who cause the most harm in our communities.”

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