Career criminals to be given taxpayer-funded supplies of heroin
Career criminals to be given taxpayer-funded supplies of heroin thanks to new scheme championed by head of failing police force
- Fifteen of the most prolific career criminals will get taxpayer-funded heroin
- They will be able to inject the drug three times a day at a special NHS clinic
- Scheme created by Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger
Career criminals will get taxpayer-funded supplies of heroin under a scheme set up by the political chief of a failing police force.
Fifteen of the most prolific offenders in Middlesbrough will be able to inject the Class A drug three times a day at a special NHS clinic from this month.
The scheme, the first of its kind in England, was created by under-fire Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger.
Fifteen of the most prolific offenders in Middlesbrough will be able to inject the Class A drug three times a day at a special NHS clinic from this month (file image)
His office is providing almost a third of the annual £440,000 cost.
The idea is to wean addicts, many of whom are behind a string of offences, off the drug with medical-grade heroin.
But last night critics said it was wrong for Cleveland – the first force in the country to be branded failing by watchdogs – to reward criminals with free drugs.
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary rated the force, which has had six chief constables in as many years, inadequate in every area.
In the wake of the damning report, Mr Coppinger said he would stand down as Cleveland PCC next year. Last night Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Barry Coppinger has consistently failed the people of Cleveland and its serving police officers – now he is actively undermining efforts to tackle drug addiction.
‘It is not right for a commissioner who has failed so badly, and is stepping down in a matter of months, to make the Cleveland force area a guinea pig for an experimental new drugs policy when he won’t even be around to face its consequences.
The scheme, the first of its kind in England, was created by under-fire Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger
‘I’m sure most right-thinking people would rather see the hundreds of thousands of pounds he is squandering on this spent on getting the basics right, by investing in frontline policing.’
Internal reports from Mr Coppinger’s office reveal that the 15 people chosen to benefit from the pilot scheme are addicts with criminal records.
Early research found that 20 of the most hardcore addicts in the North East town – some of whom will now get free heroin in the project – had committed a total of 351 offences such as shoplifting in two years, ‘costing society £784,890’.
Mr Coppinger has said the trial will focus on long-term drug users ‘for whom all other treatment has failed and who are known to be the most active criminals in the town as they look to finance their addiction’.
He estimates the annual cost to the taxpayer – £12,000 per addict – represents a saving to society. While removing the need for addicts to steal to buy drugs, it is hoped the project will ‘finally get users off drugs, off the streets and back into society’ while also freeing up NHS and police resources.
The PCC has provided £131,287 towards the scheme, with the rest coming from prisons, probation and public health budgets.
Healthcare workers will supervise the addicts as they ‘self-administer’ diamorphine.
The project has already been agreed by the Home Office.
The Middlesbrough trial is expected to be followed by another in Darlington, run by neighbouring Durham Police.
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