New Durham Chief Constable: We should 'help, not criminalise' drug users

Ch Con Jo Farrell Credit: ITV News

By Kris Jepson

Durham Constabulary's new Chief Constable has told ITV News Tyne Tees the police should 'help, not criminalise' addicted drug users.

Speaking in her first ITV interview since taking over the role following the retirement of Mike Barton, Jo Farrell said she thinks a debate should be had on whether to legalise drugs and that "I’d be on the how do we prevent and help people (side of the debate), rather than them ending up in a cycle of being criminalised because of an addiction."

Watch @krisjepson's report here:

Jo Farrell is the first ever female Chief Constable of Durham Police. She comes with more than 25 years of experience, previously working at Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Northumbria Police.

She joined the force three years ago as deputy and to secure the top job she was interviewed by a panel of senior public figures, a community representative, and an external human resources expert and then psychometrically tested.

Ron Hogg and Ch Con Jo Farrell Credit: Durham Constabulary

She told ITV News her priority was preventative rather than reactive policing.

Part of our approach is around problem solving, so whenever we are dealing with an issue, what's in the forefront of our mind is how do we stop somebody being a victim of a crime or needing to call the police in the future, so rather than reacting all the time, how do we prevent somebody being in harm, at risk of harm, or how do we prevent them from being a victim of crime?

Ch Con Jo Farrell
Mike Barton Credit: Durham Constabulary

Jo Farrell's predecessor, Mike Barton, served as Chief Constable for seven years and was an outspoken figure during that time, calling for changes in approaches to tackle drug addiction.

As a member of Barton's senior team for three years, the new Chief Constable said she will continue the work the force has done on the issue.

I think the debate is more around that is a health issue and how do we A) prevent people in the first place? And if they do have a drug issue, how do we ensure that they can get support and treatment and move forward with their lives? We have finite resources and we make decisions everyday as to where the highest harm is and where we focus our attention.

Ch Con Jo Farrell
Ch Con Jo Farrell Credit: ITV News

Durham Constabulary has recently been rated outstanding by government inspectors for an unprecedented fourth year running under the stewardship of Mr Barton.

In the forces annual Peel report, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services graded Durham Constabulary outstanding for effectiveness and efficiency and good for legitimacy.

Ch Con Jo Farrell Credit: ITV News

Chief Constable Jo Farrell told ITV News she will continue to improve standards at the force and hopefully achieve an outstanding rating for a fifth year in a row.

The former Chief Constable would say it is about all of the people within Durham Police and our partners that made it outstanding, so I am confident that I've brilliant talent, brilliant people within the organisation and we will move forward, and we know the direction we need to take. There's always more work to do and there's always some challenge, but we've got talent, innovation and this is about continually improving, improving, improving.

Ch Con Jo Farrell