North Wales drug fix room pilot moves forward

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Drug equipment, powder and needleImage source, Getty Images

A drug fix room could become a reality in north Wales, according to the region's police and crime commissioner.

Arfon Jones said he is "hoping to pilot" a safe injecting facility in the force area, after research is presented to the Welsh Government.

The commissioner has been a vocal campaigner for decriminalising drugs and has used his annual report to highlight the issue again.

However, the Welsh Government said the issue "is not straightforward".

"The war on drugs was lost a long time ago and I will continue to work to change the way the police deal with drugs," said Mr Jones, in the report.

"I am a firm believer that people addicted to drugs should be referred to the health service for help as opposed to being dealt with as criminals by the police. Drug addiction is a disease and not a crime."

There were 271 drug-related deaths in Wales last year, a trend that has continued to rise in recent years.

Image caption,
Arfon Jones backs changes to drug use laws

The commissioner has previously visited injection rooms in Switzerland, which he said convinced him that the approach could help drug addicts in Wales.

"I am very keen in piloting what is commonly known as a safe injecting facility in areas of problematic drug use," he said in his report, which is being given to the region's police and crime panel on Monday.

"The benefit of these facilities is to reduce the number of drug related deaths and to help prevent fear of crime and anti-social behaviour in local communities."

The police and crime panel has been told that research on the value of fix rooms is being carried out by the Welsh Government Advisory Panel on Substance Misuse, and will be presented to Public Health and Social Services Minister, Rebecca Evans.

"Following this, I am hoping to pilot a facility in the north Wales region," said Mr Jones.

The Welsh Government said it was continuing to review and monitor evidence from Europe and beyond on "medically supervised injecting centres" (MSIC).

"Unfortunately, this issue is not straightforward given significant questions about whether MSICs are compatible with current UK legislation relating to the misuse of drugs," said a government official.

"Organisations in Wales have established a multi-agency steering group to gather and review the research and evidence for MSICs and to consider whether they are needed in identified areas in Wales."