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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 14:28 GMT
Legalise heroin, urges addict's father
Heroin
The committee is investigating the government's drugs policy
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By Mark Davies
BBC News Online political reporter
line
A man whose son died of heroin abuse aged 33 has urged MPs to consider legalising heroin to prevent more deaths among addicts.

Fulton Gillespie stressed he was not saying it was acceptable to take drugs but that he believed controlling the supply of heroin would take power away from drug dealers.

Mr Gillespie was one of three parents giving evidence to the Commons home affairs committee about the experience of their children.

We have to take control (of drugs) away from criminals and place it back where it belongs - with the people. At the moment criminals are calling the shots

Fulton Gillespie

His son Scott died after taking heroin which contained impurities.

Mr Gillespie told the committee on Tuesday that his son had died after he had spent five weeks in prison on remand for stealing to buy drugs.

During that time he had not been taking drugs and on release from prison, his body had been unable to cope with his normal dose, Mr Gillespie said.

If heroin had been legal, Mr Gillespie said, the death could have been avoided because his son would not have had to steal to buy drugs.

Moreover, legalisation would have meant that the heroin he took would have been controlled and therefore not impure.

'Regulate supply'

The committee is investigating the government's drugs policy.

The three parents all argued that the families of drug users were not given enough support through government policy and that too much stress was placed on the criminal justice system rather than rehabilitation.

Mr Gillespie, who said he favoured legalising all drugs, said: "We have to take control (of drugs) away from criminals and place it back where it belongs - with the people. At the moment criminals are calling the shots.

"I cannot see for the life of me how we can expect to deal (with this) if we are not in charge of the supply of the stuff ourselves.

"Regulate supply and make sure it is controlled because kids are going to use it anyway. I do not think there will be an upsurge in drug use. It is decimating our young people which it need not do."

He said it was wrong that drugs like alcohol and tobacco had potentially harmful effects, yet were legal.

Hope Humphreys, who said she too favoured legalising all drugs, said her son had spent two-and-a half-years in prison after police raided his student house and found 53 ecstasy tablets.

'Considered decision'

She said society had to accept that many young people smoked cannabis or took other drugs.

"They have made a considered decision and they know what they are doing and we let them buy contaminated drugs on the streets and that is when accidents happen," she said.

"A lot of parents are very ignorant. I know because I used to be. I think a lot of parents would rather turn a blind eye."

Tina Williams, one of the founders of Panic, an organisation set up by parents and heroin addicts in Stockton, north east England, told the MPs her son was a heroin addict but that when he tried to get help, there was a lack of support available.

She said she felt she was being blamed for his addiction.

"It is your worst nightmare", she said. "Everyone is affected. Time has stood still. If you have a child and that child is sick you try everything to pick that child up."

'Irrelevant'

Mrs Williams said there needed to be more choice for addicts and their families in terms of rehabilitation and support.

Hywel Sims, of ADFAM, a UK charity for the friends and families of drug users, said the law alone was not the answer to the problem of drug use.

"Whether the drug is illegal or not can be irrelevant," he said. "The law is just one part of a multi-faceted approach which has to include prevention and education."

Mr Sims said his organisation was not yet ready to take a position on whether all drugs should be legalised.

Labour MP Chris Mullin, who chairs the committee, said any move to legalise all drugs would still require age limits such as that in force for tobacco and this could lead to a black market in certain drugs.

He also questioned why no other country had chosen to legalise drugs like heroin.

See also:

01 Mar 02 | Education
Heroin victim's death used as warning
14 Oct 98 | Medical notes
Heroin: The facts
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