The Scottish Greens are calling for drug services to be exempt from prosecution after charges were dropped against an activist who runs an overdose prevention centre from a van in Glasgow.
Peter Krykant was charged in connection with an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in October after police attended the drug consumption van on Parnie Street.
But his lawyer Aamer Anwar confirmed that charges have been dropped.
Mr Krykant, 43, is campaigning for a change in the law, claiming the current legislation forces addicts to inject in unsafe conditions in filthy alleyways.
His van allows drug users to take substances in what he says is a safe environment.
Now the Greens are calling for Scotland’s top law officer to “use his public interest discretion to exempt staff overseeing lifesaving public health interventions from prosecution”.
The party’s justice spokesperson John Finnie has said that interventions such as safe drug consumption rooms must play a part in this response, but this can only happen if the Lord Advocate exempts them from prosecution.
He said: “Scotland’s current approach to drug deaths has demonstrably failed. It fails families every day and if that approach isn’t changed it will continue to fail, with tragic consequences. Carrying on as we are is not an option.
“We know we cannot arrest our way out of the drug deaths crisis. When it comes to drugs, criminalisation has caused more harm than it can claim to have prevented. Addiction is better tackled by trained medical professionals than the strong arm of the law.
“The Lord Advocate has the power to act now. He must use his public interest discretion to ensure that no health profession would face prosecution for providing lifesaving health interventions.
“Establishing safe drug consumption facilities could play a significant role in reducing drug related deaths and other serious harms. There is nothing more obviously in the public interest than saving lives. So, I urge the Lord Advocate to act now.”
The Scottish Government is expected to outline its plans to tackle Scotland’s drug deaths crisis in a statement to parliament on Wednesday afternoon.
In a statement, Mr Krykant’s lawyer Aamer Anwar said: “On December 8 I wrote to the Lord Advocate on behalf of Peter to refuse a warning offered to him by the Crown, which alleged he had committed an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act on October 23 at Parnie Street, Glasgow City Centre.
“I also advised the Lord Advocate that Peter’s ‘safe consumption van’ operated to save lives and there could be no public interest in prosecuting Peter. The Procurator Fiscal has now advised they will take no further action in this case against Peter at this time.
“Whilst this is welcome news, it is disappointing that the Lord Advocate, a minister in the Scottish Government, refuses to address the issue of ‘safe consumption vans’ in the midst of a public health emergency. If it is illegal, then as the country’s most senior law officer he would be expected to act, however, we believe no laws are being broken and the LA should have the courage to engage with those campaigning on this issue.
“Every day that passes without action means a chance to save lives slips further away.”
Mr Krykant said: “While I appreciate the Crown Office has chosen to ‘take no further action’ regarding the alleged offence at our overdose prevention centre it begs the question of the Crown.
“We have been running the overdose prevention centre for around six months, the Lord Advocate has given no direction to the police who have not intervened in the running of the service.
“Does this mean we are now endorsed by the Crown and will the Lord Advocate give the police clear direction so homeless drug users can use our service without fear of arrest for simple possession and then they can be directed to treatment services to get help, which can support them to stop illicit drug use?”
A spokesperson for the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service said: “The Procurator Fiscal received a report concerning a 44-year-old man in relation to an alleged obstruction of the police in Glasgow on 23 October 2020.
“After consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case it has been decided there should be no further action at this time. A decision to take no further action does not represent a decision that the alleged behaviour was not criminal.
“The Procurator Fiscal reserves the right to proceed in the future. The Lord Advocate is committed to reducing harm arising from illegal drugs and has taken appropriate measures within his power to reduce drug deaths, such as updating prosecution policy to assist the delivery of the overdose treatment naloxone during the pandemic.
“However, it would be the responsibility of legislators to establish a legal regime for the operation of a drugs consumption facility through a democratically accountable process.”