10 MAY 2018

Drug deaths double showing need for Robert's Law

Kent authorities have been told to stock thousands of anti-overdose kits after drug deaths doubled in three years – to the highest level in the UK. There were 213 drug-related deaths in the county between 2014 and 2016, compared to just 111 between 2011 and 2013.

A report published this week by Public Health England recommends the number of naloxone kits – which reverse overdose effects – needed by each local authority, based on numbers for drug users and drug-related deaths. It recommends any individual receiving treatment for opiate use – 2,210 across Kent – should be given a kit, plus extra depending on mortality rates. Public Health England has recommended Kent stock a total of 3,172 naloxone kits.

Their report, called "Fentanyl: preparing for a future threat", focused on powerful opioids following my campaign. I have been working to bring in Robert's Law – tougher sentences for those who supply fentanyl – with the mother of a Deal teenager killed after taking the deadly drug in 2016. Last year, Home Office ministers assured me they would be working with Public Health England to widen naloxone's use in the UK.

These new figures on deaths caused by drugs are really concerning. Working with Robert Fraser's mum Michelle I have seen just how devastating the trend is. Fentanyl is dozens of times stronger than heroin and it is killing tens of thousands of people each year in America. We are fighting to make sure that isn't repeated here. This is why I have been pushing for a carrot and stick approach. Firstly provide these anti-overdose drugs, because every life is precious. Secondly, punish the dealers who bring this poison to our streets. I want tougher sentences for those caught supplying it.

I also raised the issue with the National Crime Agency, the National Police Chiefs Council, the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS recently updated its guidance for prosecutors, asking them to recommend longer jail terms to judges. The Sentencing Council has also told me they will review their guidelines.

The campaign for Robert's Law follows the death of Robert Fraser, who was 18 when he lost his life after taking fentanyl. He did not know he was taking it, having been told by a drug dealer it was similar to ecstasy. His body was discovered by his parents later that evening.

As Robert's mum Michelle said: "Robert was not an addict. He took recreational drugs like so many young people these days. But I will never get him back.

"I don't want any other parent to go through what I have. That's why I want anti-overdose kits to be more widely available, and for the people who peddle this poison to be properly punished.

"It is costing lives and sitting back and hiding – hoping it will all go away is not an option. My son's memory is worth so much more, and so is our children's future."

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Charlie Elphicke

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