Cameron ‘wouldn’t rule out’ shooting galleries

David Cameron today said he “certainly wouldn’t rule out” setting up special rooms where drug addicts can inject themselves in a safe and hygienic setting.

The Conservative leader’s comments come after a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report says drug consumption rooms can help reduce the number of fatal overdoses and take drug use, particularly among homeless people, off the streets.

The government has rejected the suggestion outright, but speaking at a drug centre in London today, Mr Cameron said that “anything that helps get users off the street and in touch with agencies that can provide treatment is worth looking at”.

He added: “If we can try and understand then we are some way to understanding how we can get people off drugs so they can lead more purposeful lives and cut crime for everybody else.”

Today’s report is the result of 20 months work by an independent working group made up of police, including Metropolitan assistant commissioner Andy Hayman, drug experts, academics and NHS managers.

It uses evidence from about 60 rooms, also known as ‘shooting galleries’, in eight countries to argue that the facilities bring users into contact with support services when they might never normally encounter any kind of help.

The working group also says drug consumption rooms can cut the incident of blood-borne viruses such as HIV / Aids by providing a regular supply of clean needles for drug users, who might be otherwise forced into sharing with other addicts.

Chairwoman Ruth Runcimen said the drugs consumption rooms were a “rational and overdue extension to UK harm reduction policies”.

“This approach would offer a unique and promising way to work with the most problematic users,” she said, adding: “In short, lives could be saved.”

The report was welcomed by campaigners DrugScope, who said that although drug consumption rooms were controversial, they were a necessary part of the “informed, rational and calm debate” surrounding drugs.

However, the government has rejected the idea outright, raising concern about the impact the facilities, which can also become meeting points for addicts, would have on the local community.

A spokesman for the Home Office said the idea was first mooted in 2002, but dismissed on the basis that it carried with it “significant risk of harm to local communities in terms of an increase in localized dealing, anti-social behaviour and acquisitive crime”.

He said: “The government’s message on drugs is clear – we will not tolerate those who deal in drugs in our communities. We are of course aware of this report but believe the reasons for rejecting it in 2002 are as valid today.

“Our drugs strategy is making real inroads into tackling drug misuse by offering treatment and support in a way which makes our communities safer.”