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1 May, 2004

Court closes drugs flat

Lancaster's free local newspaper, The Citizen (no website) reports that a ground floor flat in Morecambe was raided by drugs squad officers last week.  The police found more than 500 used needles and other evidence of heroin use, so Lancaster magistrates used relatively new anti-social behaviour legislation to impose a closure order, and the building must be vacated for three months.

I'd better clarify that I have negligible knowledge of the issues involved, and I have no more information about this specific case than is provided in the short article.  Perhaps there's something else that I'm missing, but from the available evidence I'm not sure the magistrates took the right action.

Officers discovered a large number of used needles, but they were in hospital-grade sharps disposal bins; I can't think of a more responsible storage and disposal technique. Of the 500 needles, 1 (one) was found down a grid in an alleyway at the rear of the flat; the Citizen points out that the area is used by children going to school, but that's over-emotive rubbish, and no doubt applies to every street, path and alley in Morecambe.

I don't condone heroin use and associated anti-social behaviour at all, but it's foolish to deny its existance, and in the circumstances this situation seemed to be under control. The police knew where the addicts were congregating, as did the council, and it seems someone in the flat had an organised and responsible attitude about needles. Now the addicts have been dispersed, so the authorities will have to find them again and expend more resources on monitoring them, and needles will presumably be discarded less responsibly across a wider area.

Perhaps the police and council do have to be seen to be taking some action, and immediately local residents will probably be pleased (for three months...), but I don't really see what has been achieved in the long term.

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