Brighton Kemptown MP Des Turner has called for hard drugs to be legalised.

The Labour MP spoke out after an investigation by The Argus lifted the lid on street dealing in Brighton and Hove.

Reporter Andy Whelan bought heroin from a man in one of Hove's main shopping streets. And it took him just 26 minutes to obtain the drug.

Dr Turner's comments come after details of yet another young victim of the city's heroin trade were revealed.

An inquest into the death of Tania Meires heard that heroin in Brighton was so pure that injecting it was like "playing Russian roulette every time".

Dr Turner said it was now time to decriminalise drug use and supply the substances over the counter in a regulated way.

In what is certain to cause a storm of controversy, the MP said: "The policy we have at the moment of criminalising drugs obviously isn't working.

"We need some fresh alternative thinking if we are to get a grip on the problem.

"I would rather we decriminalise drug use and supply people who are unfortunate enough to be drug addicts from our own pharmacies which we know to be safe."

From 2002 to 2005 Brighton and Hove was named the drugs-death capital of Britain by the International Centre for Drug Policy at the University of London. In 2006 it came second to Blackpool.

Mr Turner wants to see drugs prescribed to wipe out the multimillion- pound criminal trade in which dealers determine the quality of the substances.

He said: "I don't think there is one single magical solution but the current policy doesn't actually reduce the scale of the problem. It needs some quality control to get the bad drugs off the streets.

"We really need to focus heavily on the suppliers. I have never said this on the public record before because it is kind of contentious.

"People immediately will accuse me of being soft on drugs, which I'm not. It is a view I have reluctantly come to because the policies aren't working.

"I would like to emphasise this is a view that has been put forward by several senior policemen in the country."

Last night, a senior Sussex Police officer welcomed a renewed debate on drug laws.

Brighton and Hove city commander Chief Supt Paul Pearce said: "The use of controlled drugs is an issue that is important because it impacts adversely on so many areas of society. The story in The Argus yesterday about how easy it is to buy heroin in the city shows just how big an issue this is for Brighton and Hove.

"The police service seeks to encourage an open and honest debate on the use of controlled drugs and that debate must be informed by the harm caused not only to users, but also to others who become victims either directly or indirectly.

"It is worthy of the widest debate but it often seems that it is easier and more convenient to get sidetracked by details such as whether cannabis should be a Class B or C drug."

Last year North Wales Police Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom spoke openly about his desire to see drugs legalised.

He said the current policy was creating crime due to the massive illegal profits that can be made and was putting vulnerable people in danger.

He said: "I don't advocate anybody abusing their body with drugs but clearly some want to.

"What would be wrong with making heroin available on the state for people who wanted to abuse their bodies? What is wrong with that?"

Around the same time David Lepper, Labour MP for Brighton Pavilion, called for heroin addicts to be given the drug to stop them committing crime.

Home Office research has found that each heroin addict commits an average of 432 crimes a year and each addict's yearly crime spree costs an average £45,000.

He said: "If it was part of a carefully controlled scheme with carefully chosen clients then it would be good to try it to see if it does help to get people off drugs and help reduce crime."

Charity DrugScope said: "DrugScope fully supports the principle of removing drug users from the criminal justice system where appropriate and ensuring they receive effective and appropriate treatment."

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We do not accept that legalisation and regulation is now, or will be in the future, an acceptable response to the presence of drugs"