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.
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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.