Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360 - 371)



Mr Watson

  360. I will be very quick. Presumably you are not saying that GPs should administer heroin. Would you leave that down to drug centres or special centres?
  (Mr Howard) I think the important thing is that somebody is competent and licensed and regulated to use this. If a GP has demonstrated their competence with the local medical regulatory bodies there seems to be no reason why a GP should not prescribe.

  361. And no worries about leakage?
  (Mr Howard) I think there will always be worries about that. Again, I declare an interest in that I was on the Department of Health Chief Medical Officer's Advisory Group that drew up the clinical guidelines. The evidence we have from around the world is that the supervised consumption of methadone and supervised consumption generally leads to less leakage. I think there are steps that can be put in place there.

  Mr Watson: I will leave it there.


  362. Just one final point for Mr Hayman perhaps. I talked to a drug addict last week who said he had just come back from Germany and in Germany they had shooting galleries, as he called them, safe areas to which presumably the police do not pay much attention where heroin addicts can go to inject in private and also with access to clean needles and also not leaving needles lying around in the street afterwards. Is that something you might look favourably upon?
  (Mr Hayman) It does fit well into the harm reduction discussion and if indications from our colleagues in the medical profession are that that can be controlled in a way which people are content then with clearly from ACPO's perspective it does reduce the tension in the community and all the erosion of the community that we know occurs.

  363. It also involves you turning a blind eye, does it not, to some extent?
  (Mr Hayman) If you go to Amsterdam, of course, there are similarities, maybe not with such serious consequences, around prostitution and the way in which they have created safe areas there. I am arguing a fairly more liberal perspective. I am saying that a lot of people are more informed than the Police Service is as to whether or not that is dangerous.

  364. Mr Morris, yes or no, would you go along with shooting galleries?
  (Mr Morris) Yes, if carefully controlled. In Switzerland when they first did it it caused a lot of problems but I think they have learned from that.
  (Mr Howard) If I could just make one point. I think we need to thoroughly review the operational effectiveness of shooting galleries, shooting rooms, and things like that. Can I also make the point, and I hope you will look at this, there was a very hasty and perhaps ill-conceived pre-Election amendment to Section 8 of the Misuse of Drugs Act which really makes any harm reduction efforts like this very, very difficult. My members and a lot of people out there came up with the Cambridge case—some of you will be familiar with that—and I would urge you that the ability to be able to do that is inextricably linked to reviewing what Section 8 is.

  365. Section 8?
  (Mr Howard) Of the Misuse of Drugs Act about allowing the use of premises to be used for controlled drugs.

  366. One other point on Drug Treatment and Testing Orders. Evidence has been offered to us that they were rolled out despite the fact all the indications were they were not working. Does anybody agree with that? Mr Hayman?
  (Mr Hayman) I think I may want to ask Jonathon.
  (Mr Ledger) The only thing we were concerned about was that they appeared to be under-evaluated. We were not so clear about whether or not they were failing but there were 200 people in the three pilot studies who were subject to the orders at that point and that did not seem to us to be a very large sample on which to base the roll out of the programme which has now taken place. We were concerned not that it was not a good initiative but that it had not been properly researched and, therefore, if we do these things we have got to do them properly otherwise it reflects badly on—

  367. It was rolled out without due consideration?
  (Mr Ledger) Without proper evaluation. Within three months of the pilot projects finishing.

  368. Mr Nick Davies, who gave evidence to us the other day, said that the results so far were that overwhelmingly it was not working.
  (Mr Ledger) We heard some bad examples. I would not want to go to the length that Nick Davies has gone. We certainly had concerns and felt there should be proper evaluation and possibly further pilot areas because 200 is not a lot to base a national strategy on.

  369. Thank you. Mr Howard?
  (Mr Howard) I would not agree that they are not working. We have endorsed the use of Drug Treatment and Testing Orders. They were rolled out fairly quickly, that is true, but I think there is sufficient evidence to show that well structured, well organised and well run programmes can achieve significant results. I think what we are finding from the early pilots and the early introduction is that process factors were very important in setting these up. They can work. I would not be as pessimistic as others about looking at the long-term impact of these.

  370. Do you agree that they were rolled out too early?
  (Mr Howard) No, I am not going to agree that they were rolled out too early. There was a desperate need to improve and increase treatment. We would all like longer term evaluation, nobody is denying that. Could I also say where we do have a serious problem is about the introduction of Drug Abstinence Orders because it is our view that there is an expectation that people who may have severe problems will not get access to treatment.It is not part of that process. We lobbied and we failed in trying to get conditions of treatment attached. We think it is irresponsible to have Drug Abstinence Orders without treatment guaranteed and available to people who need it.

  371. Because it sets people up for failure?
  (Mr Howard) Indeed.
  (Mr Ledger) I endorse that entirely.

  Chairman: Gentlemen, thank you very much.

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