Roll out drugs 'shooting galleries' as part of decriminalisation, MPs say

Henry Bodkin
Drug-deaths are now a public health 'emergency' the committee said - EyeEm

MPs have called for an expansion of drugs “shooting galleries” alongside the decriminalisation of narcotics for personal use.

A report by the Health and Social Care Committee argues the UK’s approach is “clearly failing”, with drug-related deaths now amounting to a public health emergency.

It says drug possession for personal use should become a civil matter not a crime, with responsibility for drugs policy shifting from the Home Office to the Department of Health and Social Care.

The document urges the Government to consider mimicking the system in Portugal, where personal possession was decriminalised in 2001.

The move could save lives, the report claimed, but would also require extra cash for alternative approaches such as drug consumption rooms, supervised healthcare facilities where users can take drugs in safer conditions.

The concept, labelled by some as "shooting galleries", has received backing from several chief constables in the hope it will lessen repeat offending by drug adults.

The committee also wants to see more needle and syringe exchanges and greater access to naloxone, which can reverse the effects of opioids.

There were 2,670 deaths directly attributed to drug misuse in England last year, an increase of 16 per cent since 2017, the findings said, adding: "If other causes of premature death amongst people who use drugs were included, it is likely that this figure would approximately double."

The report said: "Evidence heard throughout this inquiry leads the committee to conclude that UK drugs policy is clearly failing.

"The United Kingdom has some of the highest drug death rates in Europe, particularly in Scotland.

"This report shows how the rate of drug-related deaths has risen to the scale of a public health emergency.

"The Portuguese system included improving treatment services, introducing harm reduction interventions, and better education, prevention and social support.

"Decriminalisation of possession for personal use saves money from the criminal justice system and allows for more investment in prevention and treatment.

"Decriminalisation will not be effective without investing in holistic harm reduction, support and treatment services for drug addiction. Doing so would save lives and provide better protection for communities."

But the Government said it "has no plans to decriminalise drug possession".

A Home Office spokesman added: "The decriminalisation of drug possession in the UK would not eliminate the crime committed by the illicit trade, nor would it address the harms associated with drug dependence and the misery that this can cause to families and communities.”