08 September 2002

Lifeline, injecting kits and the paraphernalia laws

Lifeline, the Manchester-based drugs charity, has been threatened with prosecution under the UKs out-dated paraphernalia legislation. The Charity wants to see a reduction in the spread of Hepatitis C by reducing the incidence of equipment-sharing amongst injecting drug users. Whilst the distribution of clean needles and syringes has ensured that the UK has achieved a relatively low level of HIV amongst injecting drug users, agencies have been warning for a number of years that Hep C will pose a serious threat to health. This has been exacerbated by the sharing of filters, cookers and water.

Lifeline sought to tackle this by proposing the distribution of sterile injecting packs including sterile cookers, filters, swabs and citric acid.

Much of this paraphenalia is already being given out by Lifeline or other bodies. What Lifeline would be doing is bringing the equipment together into on package. However, Greater Manchester Police have warned Lifeline that they would be prepared to prosecute the charity if they proceed with the scheme at present.

Ironically, one of the few recomendations from the Home Affairs Select Committee to be accepted by the Home Office was that the current Section 9 paraphernalia laws needed to be amended as they were contrary to effective harm reduction.

Agencies have currently walked an uneasy line between breaking the paraphernalia laws and delivering effective harm reduction. Given the tardiness which the Government adopts when it comes to revising drugs law, agencies have felt compelled to distribute equipment legally, often seeking approval from local police forces first.

However, Lifeline have been advised by Greater Manchester Police that they could face prosecution if they proceed with the scheme.

Organisations who are confused about the legal position of paraphernalia should read the briefing document in the resources section called "Injecting Equipment and Sharps Bins."

For further information and resources see the links below:

For information about citric acid and setting up local agreements go to:
the Exchange: http://www.saferinjecting.org/citric/citric.html

For coverage of the Lifeline scheme: http://www.lifeline.org.uk

Property People Magazine: http://www.ppmagazine.co.uk/349.html
Guardian: http://society.guardian.co.uk/publichealth/story/0,11098,730633,00.html
Third Sector: http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/news_story.cfm?ID=3806