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Brighton and Hove "not ready" for drug rooms says former top cop
5:00am Tuesday 4th March 2014 in News
Brighton and Hove is not ready for controversial drug consumption rooms, a former police chief has warned.
Graham Bartlett, who retired from Sussex Police in March last year, said the centres in which medical staff help users inject free from fear of prosecution, would not be viable in the city, but could be an option for the future.
The former chief superintendent spoke to The Argus after a visit to Frankfurt, Germany, for a BBC documentary.
His warning comes as a Brighton and Hove City Council prepares to publish a feasibility study on the use of drug rooms.
He said: “My personal view is that it is not a viable option for Brighton at the minute. Maybe in the future.
“They are necessary for Frankfurt, but things are a lot different over there.
“They need to be seen as part of a wider framework of support to be successful.”
Mr Bartlett, who is now a director at a management company, travelled to the city last month.
He spent time with drugs users, staff and police at one of the four consumption rooms in the city to find out how they work.
He said: “It was based in quite a run-down area and it was very sad. There were a lot of people there who were suffering.
“Unfortunately the centres do attract drug dealers as well and there are issues with crime. But they are incredibly safe for users to take drugs. They get clean needles and conditions, and support if they need it.
“It’s not a nice place to be, it was pretty sad but if they weren’t there they would be out of the streets or in car parks with dirty needles.
“From a health benefits point of view, it’s a far better option.”
The documentary, which was shown last night, explained how the city had been blighted with a drug problem for many years.
Mr Bartlett said: “Users had taken over this municipal park. It was a no-go zone for locals, they were openly injecting so there wasn’t much opposition to the opening of the centres.
It got to a stage where people were prepared for them.
“It still took them 15 years.
“I don’t think it has got to that stage in Brighton and Hove yet.”
He added: “They are certainly no silver bullet. You can’t just have a drug consumption room and expect everything to be better.
“They need to be seen as a way of accessing people who need help.
“But they need to be part of a wider framework of support. As everything is at the moment, they are just not feasible.”
The council-backed feasibility study is due back later this year.
To see the documentary visit www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer.
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