SUSSEX’S former chief constable has called for drugs including heroin, cocaine and cannabis to be legalised.

Paul Whitehouse, who was the county’s most senior police officer from 1993 to 2001, said that current laws prohibiting drugs only serve to increase criminality and health problems.

Speaking exclusively to The Argus he said: “The evidence is overwhelming.

“There is very clear evidence prohibition leads to violence and criminality.

“Having seen the human misery and amount of crime generated by crime I am definitely of the opinion that prohibition isn’t working.

“Whilst I support decriminalisation it doesn’t necessarily follow that everything should be permitted. I’m not saying absolutely everything should be legal.

“But certainly cannabis, cocaine and heroin should be.

“We didn’t have these problems with heroin until it became illegal.

“That all changed with the introduction of the Misuse of Drugs Act in the 1970s.

“Everyone recognises that alcoholism is a health problem and it should be the same with drug addictions.

“Policing tactics can only deal with the criminal aspects. Police are doing exactly the right thing in trying to target the dealers rather than low level users, but their hands are tied by the law.

“The law makers have made this market for criminality.

“To allow a very highly profitable industry to be run by criminals.

“As fast as you take away one supplier another is in their place.”

In recent months there have been renewed calls – led by Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas to introduce so-called heroin shooting galleries to Brighton and Hove to remove drug use from the streets.

Mr Whitehouse said that while consumption rooms were “a step in the right direction” they did not go far enough to completely solving the problem.

He said: “Most of the immediate risks from drugs come from stuff that is not pure or the strength and composition is unknown.

“There is a good case to suggest that being in a controlled space reduces that.

“But it is very much just one step on the way to removing prohibition.”

Mr Whitehouse said that during his police career he had seen and heard the worst effects of drugs on Sussex society.

“When I was working with drugs in the 1970s it wasn’t anywhere near the problem it is now,” he said.

“By the time I became more senior I may not have been dealing with it first hand but I know what my people had to put up with.

“The number of secondary offences committed by people having to fund drug habits is astronomical.

“How much violence stems from people on drugs? How much domestic violence?

“How much theft from those who need to fund habits?

“We are just pulling people out of a muddy river for them to fall straight back in.”

Despite an apparent lack of political motivation to legalise drugs in Britain, Mr Whitehouse said he was optimistic there could be change and there were good examples of decriminalisation working in some American states and other European countries.

While many countries’ drugs laws are relaxing, the UK’s have become more stringent with the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act in 2016 which created a blanket ban for all so-called legal highs.

“There are certain politicians supportive of change,” Mr Whitehouse said.

“I don’t know enough of the evidence surrounding psychoactive substances to say all drugs should be legalised.

“But certainly in the case of heroin there is very clear evidence that prohibition leads to more violence and criminality.

“I’m hopeful the law will change.

“How long did it take for women to get the vote? In my lifetime we have seen the legalisation of abortion and homosexuality, so I’m hopeful. It just takes time. “