A Conservative minister has been caught using ‘fake news’ to ‘wilfully deceive’ parliament [TWEETS]

Victoria Atkins Theresa May Drugs
Steve Topple

Experts have slammed a Conservative minister for “peddling fake news” to defend an “indefensible” government policy. And the politician also stands accused of “wilfully deceiving” parliament in the process.

DCRs

Victoria Atkins is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability at the Home Office. Part of her remit is drugs and drug policy.

Release is the UK’s “centre of expertise” on drugs and drug laws. And it took Atkins to task via its Twitter account over her comments on Drug Consumption Rooms [DCRs] during a debate on 17 January.

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The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) says DCRs are:

Supervised drug consumption facilities… [which] primarily aim to reduce the acute risks of disease transmission through unhygienic injecting, prevent drug-related overdose deaths and connect high-risk drug users with addiction treatment and other health and social services.

Fast and loose with the facts?

As Release’s Twitter thread explained, Atkins outlined in parliament the disagreement with DCRs. But she got her facts somewhat wrong:

Release noted Atkins said:

You can read Atkins’s full comments here. But Release disagreed with her assertions, noting:

Atkins also said of Canadian DCRs:

Canada has kept its provider, Insite, not because of the evidence that the services provided by Insite work, but because the users of Insite brought two court actions, and the Canadian Supreme Court ordered the Minister who wanted to close them to grant an exception to Insite in order to respect the constitutional rights of facility users and staff.

Again, Release took issue with this:

And on a separate note, Release pointed out:

Release says…

Niamh Eastwood from Release told The Canary:

Atkinss comments in this debate were simply staggering. She did not present the evidence for drug consumption rooms accurately – she was wrong on the number of DCRs in Spain and she was wrong about the basis for Insite, Vancouver’s DCR, remaining open. The EU’s own monitoring group on drugs supports the evidence base for DCRs, as does the government’s own expert advisers. Yet the Minister seems to have unique knowledge implying that the evidence basis is not strong.

DCRs save lives, improve the health of people who use drugs, reduce public littering and are proven to be cost effective…

The Minister restated in the debate the government’s commitment to the ‘recovery agenda’, defined as being drug free. This is the policy that has been in place since 2010; a policy that has undoubtedly contributed to the record breaking number of overdose deaths. If the government continues to ignore the evidence, more people – children, sisters, brothers, mums, and dads – will die.

The Canary asked the Home Office for comment, but none was received by the time of publication.

A failing war on drugs

The government insists that its “approach” to drugs is working. But the statistics surrounding recreational drugs tell a different story.

Aside from overall drug-related deaths in England and Wales rising by 65.7%, and heroin-related deaths by 107% between 2012 and 2015, further statistics seem to contradict the government’s ‘success’; as almost a third of all drug overdoses in Europe happened in the UK. Additionally, Britain has the highest proportion of heroin addicts in the EU – eight in every 1,000 people. Also, the overall UK drug mortality rate for 2016 was three times the EU average, at 60.3 deaths per million people.

When you have a government (and a system) that doesn’t grasp the subject it is legislating on, then problems will arise. And Atkins’s comments encapsulate this.

It is time the government began to listen to drug users, addicts and experts. Because the ‘war on drugs’ is failing. And too many lives are being lost.

Get Involved

– If your drug use is worrying you, call FRANK on 0300 123 6600.

– For advice on drugs or drugs and the law contact Release on 020 7324 2989.

– If you are having a medical emergency, call 999.

Featured image via Chris McAndrew/Wikimedia and The Washington Post/YouTube

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