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Home Office minister says no plans to ‘interfere’ on drug consumption room pilot

Scotland’s Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC said prosecuting users of a facility for simple drugs possession charges would not be in the public interest.

Drugs illustration
Drugs illustration

A drug consumption room pilot in Scotland has moved a step closer after the Home Office said it has no plans to interfere.

Home Office minister Chris Philp said the UK Government does not support such facilities in England and Wales, as they are concerned they “condone or even encourage” drug use.

But Mr Philp told MPs that his department is “not going to stand in the way” of the pilot provided the power is exercised lawfully.

Scotland’s Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC paved the way for such a facility to be established when she made clear that prosecuting the users of such a facility for simple drugs possession charges would “not be in the public interest”.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack last week said ministers at Holyrood now have “no more excuses” to act after he pledged not to intervene.

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, SNP MP Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) highlighted the comments by Scotland’s Lord Advocate.

He asked Mr Philp: “Can he confirm what the Secretary of State for Scotland indicated in this House last week that the UK Government will not seek to use any administrative or legislative means to frustrate or block the establishment of such a pilot facility?”

Mr Philp replied: “First of all it’s important to make clear that the UK Government’s position in relation to drug consumption rooms in England and Wales is that we don’t support them, we’re concerned they condone or even encourage illegal drug use.

“Of course we respect the independence of the Lord Advocate as Scotland’s prosecutorial authority and providing that power is exercised lawfully of course we’re not going to stand in the way of it, as the Scottish Secretary set out.”

He added: “I understand plans may involve a strong integration with treatment and some consideration of each case on its individual merits, but we of course don’t plan to interfere with the lawfully exercised prosecutorial independence of the Lord Advocate.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf last week stressed the need to “drive forward with a pilot with urgency” given Scotland’s high drug deaths rate.

Recent figures showed suspected drug deaths rose in the first six months of this year.

Statistics published by the Scottish Government showed there were 600 such fatalities over the period January to June – with this total 7% higher than the same time in 2022.

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