Cop-Out on Drugs? Week In Week Out

Cop-Out on Drugs?

Investigative series. A report on North Wales's police commissioner Arfon Jones's controversial belief that drug users should be dealt with mainly by the NHS, not the police.

Similar Content

Browse content similar to Cop-Out on Drugs?. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



An ex-cop says no and believes Wales could plot its own course.


We need to decriminalise, a fresh new approach.


Tonight we put his views to the test.


We're human beings at the end of the day.


We travel to Portugal to see their new radical approach.


They trust does and they feel safe with others.


A lot of people, they should stay illegal.


We go to Wrexham to see their problems with drug use.


And ask could Arfon Jones' controversial


Do they want a drug shooting gallery that could sustain a drug using


lifestyle? Do they really want that? It's Friday morning,


in Cardiff city centre, and Mick's just had his fix


for the day. I usually get down here about


7:30am. Nice one. Cheers. Thanks. I buy a ?10 bag. It should last nine


hours before you start withdrawal. You know what I mean? I've seen it


change on the streets for the worse. It's bad out there now. People


stabbing each other in the back. Just for the sake of five or six


quid. He's one of the almost 50,000 people


in Wales with a drug problem. I use street drugs. I've been


self-medicating for 16 years. Same. Maybe a bit longer.


Problem drug users are those who use opioids like heroin,


When I ask for help, I'm told to wait six months before they offer me


help. I have a family. Five boys. Using class a drugs has just


destroyed me. When he is not on the street, Mick


is at a day centre. When did you inject today? In the side of my leg.


It's a car-park for some, and the streets for others .


There's nowhere to go around here. Nowhere to go. You are using the


toilet, using the bushes. People look down on as like we are scum.


We're not scum. Where human beings at the end of the day.


They often get in trouble with the law.


The Home Office estimates that under half of acquisitive


He just got out of jail yesterday. He's been in the game as long as I


have. Maybe longer. What were you in for? Shoplifting for funding the


habit. It's what most people do. And it's not just a problem


in our capital city. In Wrexham, anxieties over


drug use have reached Police and councillors have


been at meetings trying We are in fear of these people


handing out... They're worried about some


of the town's 50 drug users who congregate in the Grosvenor Road


area where charities We've got people who are using drugs


openly on the street. It may not be an actual problem but it is very


worrying for people. It seems that they can go into a chemist and grab


a pack fall. They get ten or 20, just use one or two and throw the


whole lot away. They are allowed to meet in groups and they threaten


people. They don't get the sympathy that some of them, I have to say,


need. Arfon Jones is Police


and Crime Commissioner for North Wales and a Wrexham


councillor, so he's Lots of them are addicted to drugs


because of some trauma in life. And he has


a radical plan to address these. No way we can arrest our way


out of this drugs war. We need to decriminalise,


a fresh new approach. Make it a public health


issue and put more resources into health


to help people with addiction. He's calling for decriminalisation


of the possession of drugs and a so-called fix room


in the town. Today Arfon Jones is with


drug-worker Pete Jones who's taking him to a popular spot


used by drug users, This is what people


are worried about. Clean needles are issued to drug


users to reduce the risk of disease. But many used ones


are left lying around. It has got a long tip on it. That


goes safely inside the box. I just close it up.


The council estimates a quarter of a million


needles were issued in Wrexham last year.


Pete Jones says most are returned to needle exchanges,


An orange tip there. Can you see? Peter's doing a wonderful job,


voluntarily, not getting paid. It's a dirty job that needs doing. We


need to clean this up and we also need to stop it getting out there in


the first place. We need a fix room. So people who are dependent on


opiates can go somewhere safe and clean to inject and so they don't


dispose their paraphernalia like they do here.


Ty Croeso is where Pete helps run various services for the homeless


and substance abusers, including this needle exchange,


which is causing so much controversy locally.


What happens when a person comes in here now to see you? They will have


a chat with me when I established what they will be using. For


example, they might want a one milk syringe and a couple to cook up


their drug of choice. That has a filter in it to get rid of debris.


This is all about harm reduction. You don't want somebody using


somebody's used equipment because then you could be providing an


environment for infection. Arfon Jones thinks things would be


even safer for drug users if they could also consume the drugs


on these premises, How would this go down with current


user Luke and former addict Mark? Would you find this helpful and


safer if you were allowed to use this building to inject? There


should be somewhere to go to inject properly, supervised by a nurse in


case anything went wrong, and that. I used to go behind the council


houses to inject and I was always scared that the police would catch


me injecting and I might rush and miss and do something seriously


wrong to my body. Which I have done in my past. I've been walking around


with blood all over me. As a user, I'd like to say yes but I'm also of


the opinion that, maybe, no. Even though I am a user, I think it might


glorify it all, do you know what I mean?


The Police Commissioner says a fix room could be where addicts come


But he wants to go even further and have the NHS prescribe pure


medical grade heroin substitutes as part of supervised treatment


But, what is important is that you have support there.


It is not just a question of allowing them to inject their own


drugs, you need to have nurses there just in case


You need to have naloxon so that they can treat


So allowing them to use a fix room is just part of the answer.


You know. It is to make it a health issue.


The Police Commissioner looks to Switzerland as an example.


We went there fifteen years ago to see the approach,


meeting Peter Richard, addicted to heroin for 25 years.


One is working every day, as family, good friends, life can be very well,


even as a heroin addict. The Swiss have clinics where addicts


inject themselves with medical grade heroin supplied by their health


service We spoke to Peter this month


and he told us after five years at this clinic


he felt ready to leave. He's in good health and says


he has no cravings for any drugs. The Swiss have collected a lot


of hard data on their new system and its supporters say it actually


saves money because There are those who are sceptical


the Swiss approach would work here. David Raynes was once


a customs and excise drugs intelligence officer for Wales


and the West country. He's doubtful any kind of fix room


would be acceptable. Switzerland is a very small country.


It's very different. You can't necessarily take the situation in


one tiny country and extrapolate that across a country like the UK


with a population approaching 70 million. If you are going to have


shooting galleries in London, you'd probably need 20. That's a huge


cost. a shooting gallery that


would sustain a drug- But it could be cheaper? Yes. But it


costs money. You'd have to take the money out of the NHS. That money


could be used to treat people with cancer. It would be a very hard


sell. When people can't get drugs for cancer. What would the reaction


be if you give this money and go short on providing for cancer drugs?


At this moment in time, there are ?12 million for drugs in North Wales


and we need to look at spending that better and be more effective in how


we spend it. Asked about the prospect


of so-called fix rooms, the Welsh Government said it wasn't


a straightforward issue under UK legislation,


but pointed out there was a multi- agency steering group looking


at evidence and considering the need My other children and friends were


saying, Natalie is on drugs, and I didn't believe them. She promised


me, she swore. Nathalie was on hard


drugs for ten years. I think there is a case for six


to heroin addiction. I think there is a case for six


rooms. I don't. You are helping them with their fix. What if somebody


bought a drug and it wasn't heroin, and they dropped it on the floor,


who is to blame? Youthful giving them the needle? You can't test each


one that is coming in. You don't know if it is heroin or not. And


secondly, it is a class a drug, isn't it, like Coke and other drugs.


So you are letting somebody who is carrying a class a drug into this


room. You are giving them the needle to inject themselves, and you are


standing there watching them illegally. But they are addicts. It


doesn't matter. They are still doing it illegally.


Enforcing the law on drugs is costing billions worldwide.


surveillance operation, tracking drugs coming


Just the night before they busted a dealer in Yorkshire,


seizing a firearm and a significant amount of cash.


Six arrests at three different sites in Yorkshire. I think the drug scene


in North Wales would be akin to anywhere inning and in Wales.


I wouldn't describe it as out of control,


Good successes over last few years and people have


Officers are busy at the other end of the scale too-


policing the effects of drug-taking on the user and the wider community.


One of their biggest challenges is so called legal highs - new


psychoactive substances like black mamba and spice which mimic


They are causing me significant concerns.


It is still untested what the long-term effects of taking these


drugs will be. But we are coming across particularly young males with


some sort of psychosis, lying prostrate on the street, and members


of the public are alarmed, and that is an illegal drugs they are taking.


Over a period of two months Wrexham police patrolled the streets


for an extra two and half thousand hours in response to


But Chief Inspector Jolly says this can't go on.


There's a sustainability issue for me here


The Commissioner says the real solution, apart from fix room


is to decriminalise the possession of all drugs.


We need to think bigger and how to problem solve it and put together


sustainable solutions. The commissioner says that the


solution is decriminalising drugs. Should we be wasting valuable


resources on something that is not causing harm like a small amount of


cannabis when there is organised crime going on around the supply of


cocaine and heroin when people are being killed in gangland killings in


Manchester and Liverpool. That is where the resources should be, not


arresting people with a small amount of drugs. Police insist that there


resources are already proportionate, encouraging people towards


rehabilitation. In America, some drugs are already decriminalised.


The MP for the Rhondda Chris Bryant lost his mother


He's against a more liberal attitude to drugs.


It preys on the parts of your subconscious that you are not happy


with, and it turns you into a different human being. And I just


don't want us as a country, as a Parliament, to say, you know what?


Play with that. Have a go. It doesn't matter. In the end, it


doesn't really matter. Because it does. But the Liberal lies as are


saying they are not calling for any of these changes because they want


to see an increase in drugs or normalising it. I don't believe it.


They say they want to reduce it by regulating. I think there are some


people who, because in their ideological mindset, they go, do you


know what? I want to liberalised. I don't think it should be illegal,


and that is the end of it. And my best argument I have got is it would


be better for everybody, and I just don't buy it.


We brought Arfon Jones to a country that decriminalised drugs 15 years


ago. I have heard from other people that it is not a magic will it,


decriminalisation, so I am here to see for myself on the front line


with a bit of scepticism, and I remain to be convinced.


The first thing they tell you here is they haven't


Long time since I've been out with sirens .


Ahead of us, two white vans packed with drugs seized from traffickers.


Three tonnes of hard and soft drugs, worth tens of millions


of pounds, are brought to an incinerator.


The supply and possession of drugs here is still illegal.


It is part of a big package that has been seized.


Narcotics are seized and burnt, traffickers jailed.


The change here is subtle, although you get a clue on the streets.


Marta and Rui are health workers for a charity that


There are lot of crack cocaine smokers and sex workers


Some of them don't have a mother or father. Some of them look on us as


the family. They become sisters and brothers. They trust us, and they


feel safe with us. They say it's become much easier


to help people since Portugal reduced the penalties for drug


possession 15 years ago. Argentina, a crack addict,


told us she feels safer asking This woman's getting foil


to smoke crack cocaine. All within yards of the local


police, who don't bat an eyelid. Me feel very secure with us. That


the police force won't do anything to them.


supply of any drugs, with more than ten days'


They take action. If it is less, they get sent to a dissuasion


commission. Pedro is already getting treated


for heroin addiction. So he is told firmly


to stick with the programme A social worker was brought


in to help him sort out his life. There will be penalties


if he's back again. If a drug user is in need of help,


or if you want some sort of counselling or some sort of


referral, I am in a much better position to provide them with that


help than a judge would be. Because the judges and the courts were built


under the assumption that if you hand out sanctions, that person


would never do that again, and that might work if you are talking about


someone that robbed the bank, but for drug users, it might not work as


well as that. This is the unique


thing about Portugal. Some countries have so-called drugs


courts, but here they have effectively moved drug use away


from police and courts Nuno says if they are coming to the


health service, they can get people to treatment more quickly.


Before austerity measures cut the Portuguese health budget,


drug users could get in here within a week of a referral


In the detox area, we met 24-year-old Ana Branco.


She referred herself here, fearing her crack


Specman free thank you very much. She said she is taking medication


for anxiety and depression and for withdrawal of cocaine. She is also


on a methadone programme, and now she is decreasing her dose.


The staff here say decriminalisation has taken the stigma away


from addiction but more importantly it's been accompanied with a lot


Both liberals and conservatives can be selective about


So for another view, we took Arfon Jones to Europe's


independent drug monitoring agency, also based in Lisbon.


The Portuguese change is consistent and coherent, set ever body in


Portugal knows what is happening to a drug user, whereas in other


countries, a doctor might give you one answer, a policeman might give


you another answer, and a Government official might give you a third.


The agency say drug use figures in Portugal are broadly in line


with other European countries-some up, some are down.


Some senior police officers were privately sceptical at first.


Now they say the policy's working for them, saying it allows them


Finally, we took Arfon Jones to meet with the architect


Dr Goulao has become well-known internationally,


He says the policy's worked for Portugal, but he's not convinced


Our drug problems were present across all social groups


But probably in your country things are much more confined to


marginalised people, so that makes it more difficult, the acceptance


for the rest of society. So a note of caution


on the final day. What does the commissioner


think having now met In 2001, Portugal was ready for


change. I'm not sure we can say the same thing about England and Wales


because of the nature of who is a fact by a diction. Does that put you


off? Are you disappointed? It is thought I have, but I don't think we


should give up. Arfon Jones accepts he has


a big job on to change What does decriminalisation


mean to you? Well, it means certain drugs,


they won't be arrested for, they can take legally and that's


what I think anyway. I don't think much would happen. If


the drug is decriminalised, it becomes to do with health, not with


the justice system. But that won't help most people anyway, they will


put it in a handbag or their pocket, it will be fine. That is not the


case. It should stay illegal. Maria's daughter is off heroin now,


but the response of families like hers is a challenge


for drugs reformers. In the Rhonda, Chris Bryant says


we don't know enough about drugs Many are very highly


addictive and therefore very Many lead to very


chaotic lifestyles. Some prey off other and deeper


psychological problems. Which again we don't fully


understand and my anxiety is that you would be,


not necessarily leading to a massive opening


of the doors and the floodgates I don't subscribe to that kind


of language at all but if there were an extra 50 people


in the Rhondda who ended up taking heroin or crack cocaine,


then I think that would be a failure The Home Office told us there are no


plans to decriminalise drugs. But is Arfon Jones still


convinced of his case? Decriminalisation means that


addiction is treated as a disease rather than a crime and I think


that is the way forward. That is the way we treat


people who are addicted to prescription drugs,


those who are addicted to alcohol. So why should people addicted


to unlawful drugs be Whatever is the way forward,


the possession and supply of drugs continues to have impacts on Welsh


communities and individuals. There comes a time where you just


get sick and tired of it just At least for John Paul,


there's more optimism. I lasted ten months last year


without using. My family and kids deserve


better than me. I let a lot of people down by


sinking back into this way of living. And Week In Week Out is back


on Monday night at 8:30pm. And this time tomorrow, it is the Wales




Week In, Week Out asks if it is time for a radical rethink on how we deal with drugs. A former policeman who is now police commissioner for North Wales believes so. Arfon Jones says drug users should be dealt with mainly by the NHS, not the police. But will it work? The team put his controversial views to the test.