Deadly doses of heroin have claimed the lives of more than a dozen users in Brighton and Hove this year, putting the city on course to reclaim the unwanted title of Britain's drug death capital. But as a special investigation by The Argus discovered, it can take only minutes to score a potentially lethal batch of the drug - even on busy streets in daylight.

It is 1.30pm and families go about their business in the blazing sunshine on one of Brighton and Hove's premier shopping streets.

A mother pushes her baby in a pram while a couple stroll out of a bustling store with their weekly shopping.

CCTV cameras are trained on every corner.

The drug dealer stands on the pavement offering a wrap of heroin for only £15.

Today's investigation by The Argus reveals the shocking scale of the drug problem in Brighton and Hove.

Our reporter discovered heroin being bought and sold openly in daylight in streets in the heart of the city.

The expose follows the death of 22-year-old Sam Nolan and her mother's fears that Brighton's streets are becoming saturated with heroin.

We found drugs for sale within 26 minutes of arriving in central Hove.

Usually an area visited by up to 200,000 people on Friday and Saturday nights, the streets have turned into a dealing ground for pushers.

We paid a man £15 for a tightly wrapped ball of a drug he took out of his mouth.

The transaction was carried out in a doorway in clear view of passers-by.

Shockingly the dealer said he plied his trade on the same spot every day and would offer a second wrap for half price.

When our reporter asked if he knew where he could score some 'brown' - street slang for heroin - the dealer said: "There's a drought on at the moment.

"I've only got this so I'm going to have to charge you £15.

I was offered a score (£20) for it ten minutes ago.

"The police have really cracked down on it and it's hard to get hold of good heroin.

"I'm here every day so just come looking for me.

"I'll give you the next wrap for £7.50."

On being asked whether the drugs were of high quality, he replied: "Yeah, I had it myself. I only get good stuff."

The dealer then said the drugs could also be smoked if our reporter preferred to do that rather than injecting himself with them.

As the deal was being done, other addicts waited nearby in the hope of attracting the attention of a dealer.

When they could not find one quickly, they appeared to panic as if they feared they might not be able to score their daily fix.

Last night MPs, councillors, anti-substance campaigners and the parents of drug victims spoke of their horror of the obvious presence of dealers.

They spoke of their shock after learning of the ease with which The Argus was able to buy drugs.

Brighton Kemptown MP Des Turner said: "It's appalling. It just shows how readily available drugs are.

"This is one of the reasons why Brighton historically has had so many drug related deaths.

"Nearly all of the deaths are from badly cut heroin bought on the streets.

"Heroin and crack cocaine cause the most serious social problems in the city. The worst thing is the problem shows no sign of decreasing."

Epidemic' Carol Nolan, whose 22-yearold daughter Sam died of a heroin overdose in January, said there was a drug epidemic in the city.

Mrs Nolan, of Coleridge Street, Hove, said: "The only thing that surprises me is that it took as long as 26 minutes.

"The dealers are everywhere in Brighton and Hove, they even wait outside hospitals to prey on addicts.

"I've lived here for 26 years and you never even used to hear about heroin. Now the streets are littered with it and people smoke it at parties instead of cannabis.

"The dealers are peddling death and the Government needs to act - we need much longer prison sentences as a deterrent.

"People say addicts have a choice. Well they do the first or second time, but once they are addicted they have no choice.

"I truly believe this is turning into an epidemic, and if we don't act we could be condemning our own children and grandchildren."

The Argus reported last month how killer heroin almost twice the purity of normal batches is being sold on the streets of Brighton and Hove.

Super-strength doses of the illegal drug were linked to the deaths of 11 addicts in only 11 weeks from the beginning of the year.

Senior police officers warned users to take extra care when using drugs to prevent them joining the death toll.

Police hope to stem the dramatic rise in deaths to prevent a return to the drug crisis of 2005, when Brighton and Hove was declared the drug death capital of Britain, with 51 users losing their lives during the year.

A shocking report later suggested one in 50 people in the city habitually used heroin or crack cocaine.

Brighton and Hove City Council leader Brian Oxley said he feared the city was becoming known again for the wrong reasons.

He said: "It is worrying that drugs are so readily available, it has always worried me.

"I wouldn't know where to get heroin but given the number of users in Brighton it is clearly readily available.

"We have just come off being the drug death capital of the country and it it is not a title we want again."

Martin Barnes, the chief executive of the national charity DrugScope, said: "Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of police and other enforcement agencies, evidence suggests that throughout much of Britain, Class A drugs are available to those who seek them.

"As our annual street drug trends survey has shown, the price of many illicit drugs has fallen over recent years and heroin is no exception.

"Under the new drug strategy, there needs to be continued investment in drug treatment and an improvement in its efficacy, enabling more people to lead productive, ultimately drug-free lives.

"More resources are also needed to fund drug education and prevention work with young people, aiming to reduce the numbers of people who use or become dependent on drugs."

Last night Sussex Police declined to comment on our findings after we handed the drugs to them.

Our full dossier is available to the police.

I was horrified by how easy it was

by Argus reporter

Having never had any contact with drug dealers, the image of Tony Montana from the film Scarface dominated my thoughts on Monday night.

In the hours leading up to 1pm yesterday, when I was picked up by The Argus's photographer, I became increasingly concerned that the dealers would smell a rat and attack me.

But less than half an hour after leaving my home I had bought heroin and set up a daily supply of the drug, which I was assured was of premium quality.

After positioning my photographer halfway up the street I waited further along for people to walk past before setting out on my journey.

Smoking a rolled-up cigarette and drinking a can of cider, I hoped my scruffy image would enable me to buy the drugs without arousing suspicion.

Having prepared what I was to say in my head, I was immediately put at ease when I realised nobody seemed to think I was anything out of the ordinary.

After speaking to the dealers and addicts, I sat with them for a few minutes, partly not to look anxious but mainly to disguise my leg from shaking with nerves.

Once the dealer realised he could not get any more heroin he was happy to sell me what he was carrying.

I could not get away quickly enough before anyone began asking me questions which would have revealed my naivety around drugs.

Walking away was a daunting feeling.

I was praying police weren't watching, people walking past with their children wouldn't see me and that addicts, hungry for the drug, weren't going to try and rob me.

But most of all I was horrified at how easy it was to buy the killer drug.

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