Page last updated at 20:08 GMT, Tuesday, 24 April 2012 21:08 UK

Russell Brand: Addiction is an illness not a crime

Addiction should be treated as a health problem rather than a criminal matter, comedian Russell Brand has told a committee of MPs.

The 36-year-old former heroin addict described addiction as an "illness" and said that those suffering from it should be treated with "compassion".

He advocated an "abstinence-based recovery" approach, telling MPs this was how he overcame his addiction to drugs, which he said was caused by emotional, psychological and spiritual difficulties.

He said he thought the money spent on arresting drug addicts would be better spent on treating them, as he gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee on 24 April 2012, as part of its inquiry into drugs policy.

Mr Brand spoke alongside Chip Somers, chief executive of drug rehab charity Focus 12, which runs an abstinence-based rehabilitation programme; the celebrity became a patron of the charity in 2005 after seeking help for his drugs problem there.

Mr Somers said abstinence was an "admirable aim" for everybody, arguing that "parking" people on methodone - used to wean people off drugs - was not effective as it "locked" them in addiction.

Mr Somers also called for "more honest" information on drugs in schools.

"If you don't give them the good and bad of drug use they won't listen to you because there are children in schools smoking cannabis who aren't dropping dead," he said.

Later on, the committee heard from three opponents of the decriminalisation of drug use: Mary Brett, Kathy Gyngell and Daily Mail columnist Peter Hitchens.

Questions to Theresa May

The second part of the session was dedicated to questions to Home Secretary Theresa May, and focused on Mrs May's handling of attempts to deport radical cleric Abu Qatada from the UK.

Mrs May maintained she received "unambiguous" legal advice from the government's lawyers about the deadline to deport Abu Qatada, and that she acted at the first opportunity to protect the public.

The confusion surrounds whether the three-month appeal deadline from the European court's original decision on 17 January expired on the night of 16 or 17 April.

The government believed the deadline was Monday 16 April although the European Court of Human Rights said it was a day later.

The deportation process cannot begin until it is decided whether the case should go to the court's Grand Chamber.

Mrs May confirmed the cleric would be "eligible" to apply for legal aid to cover the cost of any action he brings in the British courts.

Other questions to the home secretary covered Heathrow passport control, surveillance, the UK-US extradition treaties and allegations of racism in the Metropolitan Police.

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