Jack Straw wants legal heroin as Health Sec’s son is charged for cocaine possession
Justice secretary Jack Straw has called for imaginative solutions to tackling to the problems of drug addiction
He called for “imaginative” solutions to hard-drug abuse and said there could be “huge benefits” to issuing the drug to chronic addicts.
At the moment addicts can be prescribed heroin substitutes designed to wean them off the drug, but the idea of prescribing the drug itself is aimed at keeping long-term addicts away from drug dealers and crime.
“For the most problematic heroin users it may be the best means of reducing the harm they do themselves, and of stamping out the crime and disorder they inflict on the community,” said Mr Straw.
The Justice Secretary is the first cabinet minister to get involved in the debate following the results of a pilot scheme involving 127 heroin addicts in three cities, published last week.
The trial, which involved users injecting themselves under medical supervision in London, Brighton and Darlington, showed that crimes committed by addicts who had been prescribed heroin dropped by two thirds after six months.
Mr Straw said prescription heroin was “no magic bullet” but claimed it could reduce the £15 billion a year cost of the abuse of hard drugs.
The trials were set up in 2002 by David Blunkett, the then home secretary, but Mr Straw is the first cabinet minister to endorse prescribing the drug.
Harry Shapiro of Drugscope, which represents 800 drug projects, said: “It’s important to do everything possible to discourage Britain’s 300,000 problem drug users from injecting their drugs, and we should allow injecting heroin users to be provided with foil as part of a harm-reduction programme.”
Meanwhile, Nicholas Hewitt Birtles, a sales rep, was arrested when police raided a car parked near his home in Camden, north London, on Saturday evening, Scotland Yard said.
Officers observed three men sitting inside the vehicle parked in Camden Square and went to investigate at about 7.45pm.
They searched the car and allegedly recovered a small amount of white powder, arresting two of the occupants while the third was allowed to go.
The pair were taken to a nearby police station for questioning.
Mr Hewitt Birtles, whose father is Judge William Birtles, was later charged with possessing cocaine while the other man, who has not been named, was released on bail while tests are carried out on the powder.
The former Cabinet minister’s son was released on Sunday but ordered to appear in court next week. His friend is to answer police bail next month.
Australian-born Miss Hewitt, who served as Trade and Industry Secretary before moving to the Department of Health, left the Government in 2007 and is stepping down as an MP at the next election.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “Nicholas Hewitt Birtles, a sales representative of NW1, is bailed to appear before Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on Sept 30 charged with possession of a class A drug, namely cocaine, on Saturday Sept 19 at Camden Square.
Health Direct has long question the “logic” of labour’s drugs policy.
Health Direct reproduced the first ranking based upon scientific evidence of harm to both individuals and society. It was devised by government advisers – then ignored by ministers because of its controversial findings. The analysis was carried out by David Nutt, a senior member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, and Colin Blakemore, the chief executive of the Medical Research Council. Copies of the report have been submitted to the Home Office, which has failed to act on the conclusions.