Bid to remove threat of prosecution from drug workers hailed as victory

Campaigners have welcomed as a “victory” steps in the Drugs Bill to
scrap measures that put care staff working with drug abusers at
risk of prosecution.

If passed, the bill would repeal a 2001 amendment to section 8 of
the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This paved the way for the
prosecution of agencies or individuals who permitted the taking of
illegal drugs on their premises.

The 1971 act obliged agencies to prevent only the supply of
controlled drugs and use of cannabis.

Although the amendment extending the powers of prosecution went
through parliament under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001,
it was never implemented due to resistance from care organisations.
They complained that it would force centres that cared for
recovering drug abusers to close down.

However, the clause remains on the statute book as a potential
threat to workers. Repealing it would remove this threat
Brian Iddon, chair of the all-party parliamentary drugs misuse
group, told the second reading of the bill in the House of Commons
last week: “If this bill is enacted, it will repeal what I regard
as that vicious measure, which will give confidence back to the
people who help the most vulnerable members of society to try to
give up drugs.”

Drugs think-tank Transform welcomed the move claiming it finally
removed any possible threat section 8 would pose for organisations
working with problematic drug users.

Although it was under the original section 8 that homelessness
charity workers Ruth Wyner and John Brock were jailed in 1999 for
knowingly allowing drug dealers to supply heroin at the centre
where they worked, this is no longer considered a threat to care

During the second reading, the bill came under fire from all
political parties.

Paul Flynn, MP for Newport West, called the bill a piece of
“knee-jerk” legislation, and accused the government of “pandering
to the lowest common denominator of public opinion”.

He urged the House of Lords to “have the good sense to sabotage,
wreck and obstruct the bill in any way possible”.

The bill will now enter its committee stage.

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