Further Opinion – We are a long way from an informed debate on drugs | The Independent – John Gelmini

Alf, I’d like to expand upon my earlier posting. I know a little about this, and the Home Office and the Department of Health both underestimate the number of heroin and cocaine addicts and by so doing underestimate, for whatever reason, the number of drug rehabilitation units required. In my own local NHS Trust, the problem has become so acute that G4S currently employed on hospital cleaning now has to supply guards to the hospital to stop addicts stealing drugs, meant for sick people who they then sell on to pay for what is typically a £400 GBP a day drug habit.

What happens is that the addicts present themselves to A&E, as either having fallen or injured themselves, and then after a toilet break, seek to break into the drug stores.

Successive governments have decided that the cost of getting heroin addiction below 250,000 is prohibitive, so no more resources are put in. This is not me speculating but came directly from a middle-ranking civil servant, speaking to me in 2006, in the capacity of someone who had written books on the subject and was an expert at drug rehabilitation in her role advising Ministers.

The Port of Felixstowe has not been subjected to a major drugs bust in 30 years and the acting Chief Constable of Suffolk and the Head of the National Crime Agency speaking to Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, when I visited one of their events in Bury St Edmunds were unable to say that they could deploy more resources to the port to prevent thefts from lorries or the ingress of trafficked people and drugs.

The Head of the National Crime Agency said that there were 4,500 major criminal gangs that they were tracking in an effort to “Deter them and drive them away whilst disrupting their activities”. The words “arrest”, “bring to trial”, build watertight cases”, “put them behind bars having sought a conviction and secured it” were not used once, either by this man or the Deputy Chief Constable of Suffolk.

The DEA in America spend over $1.5 billion USD a year trying to interdict drugs but only manage to seize 10% of the drugs that pour in from outside via Mexico, Columbia and other places. The Mexican drug cartels arranged for drug money to be put into holdalls small enough to fit into bank teller windows and HSBC was fined by the authorities in America to the tune of $1.5 billion USD for allowing this to go on and for drug money to enter the American banking system. In the UK the Money Laundering regulations have never been used as forcefully and not one banker has actually been convicted of anything.

No major criminal gang has access to cargo ships or planes and heroin has to come overland from Afghanistan through Turkey in a sealed lorry marked TIR. Eventually those lorries have to go by sea and into our ports. Enforcement must therefore start with X-Raying or stopping and searching lorries at the entrance to the A14 in the case of Felixstowe or the A13 in the case of Tilbury. This means enough policemen deployed at these points to effect the necessary searches. Chief Constables should at least be asked to explain to a House of Commons Select Committee what they are doing and why the level of drug seizures is so low; it cannot be right that they complain about lack of resources and maintain they are doing the best they can.

Your point about defraying costs of rehabilitation and the mayhem caused by drug addicts I take on board. In fact “indentured servitude” exists within the prison system already since the mid 1990s under a programme called “Factories within Fences” started by Tony Blair. Prisoners are made to make clothing and do useful work and presumably the programme could be rapidly expanded with purpose built systems constructed in Germany in modular form and then assembled underground or in remote Hebridean locations.

 

John Gelmini

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