Chief constable suggests Wales needs 'radical solutions' to tackle drug problem

"Innovative and radical solutions" are needed in Wales to tackle the harm caused by drugs, the head of the country's largest police force has told ITV News.

Matt Jukes, Chief Constable of South Wales Police said "there is a market" in Wales for illegal drugs as well as the abuse of legal drugs, and the treatment services are a "really important part" of tackling those issues.

He told ITV News, "We have to do something different in the next decade than we did in the last because we've got an enduring challenge which needs to be addressed."

"I think we do need to look at areas like heroin-assisted treatment. We do need to look at responses like drug consumption rooms and safe consumption rooms where we can take the really harmful and anti-social use of drugs in streets and parks and put that somewhere safe."

Drug consumption rooms are clinics where addicts can bring their own drugs to inject with clean needles under supervision and with the offer of health checks.

Such clinics are already used in Canada, Australia, and across Europe.

The idea has been supported by the government in Scotland but the Home Office has so far refused permission, meaning the addicts at any clinic could be arrested for possession, and staff arrested for assisting drug use.

A user prepares to inject heroin in a Denmark consumption room Credit: ITV News

Recent statistics show deaths from drugs in Wales are at twice the rate of those in London at a time when law enforcement activity has increased.

Mr Jukes said different approach could help tackle the harm caused by drugs.

Matt Jukes, who was appointed chief constable in 2018, said he would like to test the evidence for drug consumption rooms more closely, but understands the "community concerns".

"There's real community concern about the location. I think in principle the idea about having safe spaces where people can take drugs, receive medical treatment since we know that - tens of thousands of people are going to be taken those illegal drugs and abusing some legal drugs as well - I think that we need to have on the table for the discussion.

"I think the challenge then comes in terms of two things; the legality of that situation which is unresolved... and secondly the question of location because we have to be realistic and say where we get services, often co-located services already to deal with substance misuse, it can make the environment for the wider public more difficult.

"So the location and the legality, the financing of it are all questions, but I think for me, we have to do something different in the next decade than we did in the last because we've got an enduring challenge which needs to be addressed."

In a statement, the Home Office said the Government has "no plans to introduce drug consumption rooms in the UK".

"We must do all we can to prevent drug use in our communities, support people through treatment and recovery, and tackle the supply of illegal drugs. Every drug related death is a tragedy. We will continue to support a range of evidence-based approaches to reduce the health-related harms of drug misuse – keeping drug control under constant review.”