Drug ‘safe space’ rooms in Norwich take a step forward

The council has agreed to make steps to overhaul drug policy and treatment in Norwich. File photo de

The council has agreed to make steps to overhaul drug policy and treatment in Norwich. File photo depicting heroin use. Picture: Paul Faith/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Moves towards a radical new approach to tackling drug addiction have been agreed by councillors.

On Tuesday evening, Norwich councillors voted unanimously for a motion which could see Norwich become a pilot city for safe space drug consumption rooms.

The rooms, which have been introduced in Denmark and Canada, allow drug users to consume illegal substances under the supervision of health care professionals.

The motion was put forward by Norwich City Council Green Party group leader Martin Schmierer, who argued prohibition had always been a failure and said the government needed to rethink its drug policy and instead view it as a health rather than criminal problem.

He said: "Whenever we meet people in Norwich the biggest issue we hear on the doorstep is drugs and it is clear it is a public health crisis. I've spoken to police officers and we can't arrest away the issue. I've spoken to people in law and we can't prosecute away the issue.

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"What we need is something radical. Something that eliminates obvious profit incentive."

Outlining the wider benefits of the consumption rooms, Mr Schmierer added they would act as a gateway for rehabilitation and remove drug paraphernalia and needles from streets.

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Labour councillor Beth Jones said she backed the motion, but said the origins of drug abuse must also remain a priority.

She added: "We're pulling people out of the river but we need to stop them falling off in the first place. The fabric of society has been decimated and while this motion is great, we need to look into the societal issues such as poor housing which leads people to drugs and look at the broader picture."

The council agreed to ask group leaders to write to the home secretary with concerns over the government's approach and to ask the leader of the council to write to the Department for Education to see an evidence-based drugs education become part of the curriculum.

They will also ask the council's scrutiny committee to examine the implications of Norwich becoming a pilot city for drug safe spaces.

It comes as figures from the Office for National Statistics in August indicated that Norwich had the second highest number of drug-poisoning deaths in the country.

The figures also showed the city had the fourth highest number of deaths related to drug misuse.

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