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Call for “fix rooms” in Canterbury for heroin addicts

By Alex Claridge

Heroin addicts in Canterbury should be given “fix rooms” where they can safely inject the Class A drug, it has been claimed.

A series of fatal overdoses in the city have sparked calls for the creation of “shooting galleries” to improve the safety of users and the wider public.

Cllr Neil Baker, the chairman of the city council’s community committee, believes such places would provide a safe and controlled environment for drug users and reduce the amount of heroin paraphernalia left in public areas.

Heroin paraphernalia. Stock image
Heroin paraphernalia. Stock image

Last month photographs were posted on social media of needles and packaging strewn on the floor of a cubicle at the Canterbury Lane toilets, where at least three addicts have already died from overdoses.

“We know heroin taking goes on so there’s an argument for saying that it should be done somewhere safe,” said Cllr Baker.

“I appreciate this is tantamount to accepting it, but on the other hand we cannot just pretend it doesn’t happen. It does.

“Whether the idea of a safe room in a controlled environment is actually suitable for Canterbury is something that needs to be discussed.”

Cllr Baker argues the idea should be put before the Canterbury Area Member Panel, the committee of the city council dedicated to issues directly connected to Canterbury.

“This would be the best place to test the idea, to give it a sounding,” he said.

Cllr Neil Baker
Cllr Neil Baker

Many heroin users in Canterbury are rough sleepers who use the facilities at homeless charity Catching Lives in Station Road East.

Charity trustee James Duff is broadly supportive of the idea.

“In an ideal world no one would use drugs or those using them would seek treatment,” he said.

“But if they are using them, then it makes sense for this to happen somewhere which is safe.

"At least then it could minimise the impact on the wider public so that it’s not happening in public places or in toilets.

“I know that places like Brighton have thought about this, but as ever with something like this the devil is in the detail.”

James Duff
James Duff

Edd Withers, who runs the Canterbury Residents Group on Facebook, is among the many to back the idea.

He said: “It’s time we provided legal places that addicts can go to inject safely with medical supervision, and away from the public – for everyone’s safety.

“No matter how well-funded, the council can’t man a toilet 24/7. With the budgets they have now, I’m surprised they still get cleaned at all.

“Accept addicts get drugs and use them – don’t condone that but offer them support and safety and a way out. And keep the public safe at the same time.”

“I appreciate this is tantamount to accepting it, but on the other hand we cannot just pretend it doesn’t happen" - Cllr Neil Baker

Three years ago, Brighton considered creating “drug consumption rooms”, which are supervised and have sterile equipment.

The plan was shelved amid fears that it was a step towards legalising hard drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine.

Last year Glasgow announced plans to open “fix rooms” for addicts after a surge in HIV infections among users.

But one expert in drug policy said the ultimate goal of such schemes should be to reduce heroin use and that those already trialled had failed to do so.

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