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Justice Secretary should request review of legal guidance to support Glasgow drug consumption facility

October 4, 2020 1:00 AM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has written to the Justice Secretary calling for a review of enforcement guidelines which could enable a Glasgow drug consumption facility to operate sustainably, without the threat of prosecution.

Peter Krykant has set up a mobile drug consumption facility in Glasgow.

Liam McArthur MSP said:

"In an ideal world the Scottish and UK governments would be getting their heads together to deliver safe drug consumption rooms supervised by NHS professionals. They're a practical way to save lives and are supported by an overwhelming body of international medical evidence.

"Peter Krykant has seen first-hand what pushing this issue underground does. His Glasgow project is a demonstration of the value services like this can have. At present, though, he faces the ever-present threat of prosecution.

"Until such time as permanent drug consumption rooms can be secured, the Justice Secretary should invite the Lord Advocate to review the present guidelines to see whether a way can be found to allow this service to continue.

"Scotland's drug death crisis has been raging for far too long. Every measure needs to be on the table to bring it to a close."

Liam McArthur's letter is as follows:

Dear Humza,

I write with regards to the use of Drug Consumption Rooms in Scotland at the moment.

You will be aware that a mobile unit was recently set up in Glasgow, with the intention of demonstrating the value and viability of Drug Consumption Rooms in line with established international evidence. This has already shown itself to be a valuable tool to help open the door to support, and keep those who are engaged in problematic drug use safe in the course of that process.

The role and scope of the Lord Advocate's guidance in influencing how police officers respond to such projects is, I feel, often underplayed. I note comments that were recently made by Graeme Pearson, a former Assistant Chief Constable, during an STV interview that served as a reminder of this very point. In this interview, he said:

"It's really in the hands of the Lord Advocate to issue guidelines to the police which allows the facility to operate without intervention from police officers in terms of trying to charge someone."

While the wider issue is politically controversial, the Scottish Government has often purported to support the use of Drug Consumption Rooms while claiming to be bound by wider legislation.

If, however, the Lord Advocate were to issue guidance that offered an alternative to the strict enforcement of the letter of the law, significant progress could be made. The Scottish Home Affairs Committee made clear that more could be done within Scotland's existing powers, and these comments would appear to substantiate that conclusion.

I accept that it is not the role of the Scottish Government to direct the Lord Advocate's actions, far less dictate any conclusions that the Lord Advocate might reach. However, it is within your competence to request that the Lord Advocate review the guidance in light of the situation in Glasgow. I would urge you to do so, and would appreciate being kept updated of such progress.

The drugs death crisis in Scotland is not going away. Bluntly, every day that policy action is stalled is another day of preventable deaths in Scotland. The Scottish Government must do everything within their power to stop that.

I look forward to your response.

Kind regards,

Liam McArthur MSP