Parents say heroin and ecstasy should be legal

Government urged to radically overhaul drugs laws as UN agencies warn of the mental problems facing children
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Parents whose children became victims of drug abuse urged the Government yesterday to legalise cannabis, heroin and ecstasy to make them safer.

Three parents, including one whose son died from adulterated heroin, told the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that a radical overhaul of the British drug laws was urgently needed.

Fulton Gillespie, 63, Tina Williams, 52, and Hope Humphrys, 57, said that the current system was failing young people and wider society. They gave evidence to the committee as part of its seven-month investigation into drugs, which was set up at Downing Street's request.

The inquiry is expected to back the downgrading of ecstasy and an end to prosecutions for cannabis possession when it publishes its report next month.

Mr Gillespie, from Cambridge, gave a moving account of the "absolute hell" endured by those involved in drug abuse, as well as their families.

Mr Gillespie, whose 33-year-old son Scott died of a heroin overdose two years ago, said that drugs had to be taken out of the hands of criminals.

"I can assure you there are very few things in life that concentrate the mind more than losing a child. So I had to think about this very, very thoroughly," he said.

"Until my son became involved in drugs, I have to confess I was one of those people who said 'build more prisons, get more police and if they want to kill themselves, fine, chuck away the key'.

"But I have had to think about it really hard. I eventually came to the conclusion that the only way that I could see would be to legalise all drugs. I'm convinced that he is dead because of the law."

Mr Gillespie said his son had been "stupid" to start using heroin in the first place and revealed that he had spent five weeks in prison because he had stolen to buy drugs.

On his release from prison, his body could not take the normal dose of heroin and the fix he had taken was toxic.

"I believe my son would be alive today if all drugs were legalised and controlled because he would have had no need to steal and would not have been in prison, the heroin would have been controlled and therefore not impure. Proper treatment would also have been available," he said.

Mrs Williams, from Stockton-on-Tees, criticised the current support system for heroin addicts, which led her to set up her own group, Parents and Addicts Against Narcotics in the Community (Panic).

When she discovered her 32-year-old son was a heroin addict, there was a total lack of support. "I just wish that help could have been there sooner because he now has nerve damage and thrombosis, but at least he has survived," she said.

She added that her son's thrombosis had been caused by the prescription of methadone, which she said was not the right treatment for all addicts. "If that hasn't worked then we need to look at the prescription of pure heroin," she said.

Mrs Humphrys, from Taunton, Somerset, told the committee how her student son was jailed for two-and-a-half years after admitting the possession of ecstasy tablets.

She said the classification of drugs needed to be clearer and the concept of a dealer needed to be defined. "Social supply is not a form of evil, it would be like buying a round of drinks today."

Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West, said after the committee meeting: "The only parents that the media normally quotes are the parents of Leah Betts. These eloquent testimonies offered a refreshing change of outlook on the whole issue. They said that they wanted to take control of the drugs, the manufacture and the marketing, out of the hands of the criminals in order to reduce harm. I'm delighted the committee invited them."