Garda vow to help injecting centre

Garda bosses have told legislators that the organisation will do “all it can” to help the pilot supervised injecting centre to succeed.

Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll told the Oireachtas Health Committee that the “less ambiguity” in the legislation the better in order to limit issues in policing the facilities.

He accepted public injecting was “unhygienic and poses a significant health risk for the drug users” and resulted in discarded needles, presenting a public health risk to others.

“An Garda Síochána will do all it can to assist in ensuring the initiative succeeds in achieving its objectives,” he told the committee.

“I am sure it will be appreciated that the less ambiguity and the avoidance of grey areas in terms of the legislation... the less likely it will be that any law enforcement issue will impact negatively on achieving a successful outcome to this initiative.”

In its submission, Eugene Lennon, Principal Officer at the Department of Health, said a safer injecting facility (SIF) was not a “free for all” for all injectors but hard-to-reach users.

He said there had been no reported deaths from overdoses in such a facility in the 90 drug consumption rooms across the world.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Bill, authorised users of an SIF would be “exempt” from the offence of possession of drugs inside the facility, but not outside. The bill would give gardaí power to enter a facility without warrant for the “prevention or detection” of offences.

Sinn Féin’s spokesman on justice and drugs Jonathan O’Brien and Senator Lynn Ruane expressed concern at this provision as well as references by Commissioner O’Driscoll regarding the “policing” of the facility.

Assistant Commissioner for Dublin Jack Nolan said they accepted this was a health-led model but said police forces abroad had power to enter the facilities.

He said there would be “challenges for policing” in how users can get into centres with illegal drugs and this required “further consideration and debate”.

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