William discusses drug legalisation with former addicts
The Duke visited east London-based Spitalfields Crypt Trust.
The Duke of Cambridge has spoken to former addicts on the controversial topic of legalising drugs.
William asked three individuals, helped by drug addiction charity the Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT), about the “big dangers” of lifting the ban.
He did not give his personal opinion but appeared to be on a factfinding mission, telling the trio that after meeting them and touring the SCT in Shoreditch, east London it was a “question I had to ask”.
For more than 50 years the charity has provided services for addicts who are usually rough sleepers, something William is likely to have come across in his support for the homeless charities Centrepoint, in his role as patron, and The Passage.
Sitting in the SCT’s art room, the Duke said: “Can I ask you a very massive question – it’s a big one – there’s obviously a lot of pressure growing in areas about legalising drugs and things like that. What are your individual opinions on that?
“I know it’s a big question, but you seem like the key people to actually get a very good idea as to, you know, what are the big dangers there – what are the feelings?”
SCT operates a homeless drop-in centre, as well as providing a personal development & training centre where students can learn life skills. pic.twitter.com/nqTGwGJGrc— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) September 19, 2017
Heather Blackburn, 49, said she thought the legalisation of drugs was “a good idea” and that money was wasted on “drug laws”.
She added: “Most of the people I’ve known in recovery, 95% had massive trauma and terrible stuff happen to them and using drugs to cope and then you get put in prison, you don’t get the facilities and the actual help you need, you get punished.
“Which is not going to help anyone taking drugs, it’s going to do even more harm, I think.”
When William asked: “So there needs to be more of a social element to it?” she replied there should be more help, such as psychiatrists, so people could turn their lives around earlier.
The Duke added: “So prison doesn’t tackle the root cause of why someone is taking drugs?” and Ms Blackburn replied “No, it just punishes what you’ve done, not the reasons why.”
Recovering alcoholic Grace Gunn, 19, who is training to become a midwife, told the future king: “You can’t just say, you know, ‘drugs are illegal’ or ‘now we can all go and do drugs’, because it doesn’t stop the fact we’re a nation of people hurting, and we can’t undo all that overnight, it takes a long period of time.”
Jason Malham, 45, a recovering heroin addict originally from Melbourne, Australia, said: “Personally, I believe that they should not be made legal.”
William’s brother Prince Harry was sent to a drugs rehabilitation clinic in 2002 after he admitted drinking alcohol when under age and smoking cannabis.
The Prince of Wales was believed to have sent his son to visit Featherstone Lodge Rehabilitation Centre in Peckham, south London, where he talked to heroine and cocaine addicts.
The Government said in its drug strategy published in July: “We have no intention of decriminalising drugs. Drugs are illegal because scientific and medical analysis has shown they are harmful to human health.
“Drug misuse is also associated with much wider societal harms including family breakdown, poverty, crime and anti-social behaviour.
“We are aware of decriminalisation approaches being taken overseas, but it is overly simplistic to say that decriminalisation works.”