Criminals who are addicted to heroin should be provided with the drug on the NHS to help cut crime, according to a senior police officer.

Howard Roberts, deputy chief constable of Nottinghamshire police, expressed his personal views on the subject at an Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) conference in Manchester, saying that the treatment would save money.

"We should actively consider prescribing diamorphine, pharmaceutical heroin, to those seriously addicted to heroin as part of a treatment programme for addiction," he said.

"My motives for making such a statement are frankly this - there is an undeniable link between addicted offenders and appalling levels of criminality, as heroin and crack cocaine addicts commit crime from burglary to robbery to sometimes murder, to get the money to buy drugs to satisfy their addiction. The resulting misery to society is huge."

Mr Roberts added that offenders should be treated in "closely supervised treatment programmes", costing around £12,000 every year per addict, but saving around £45,000 per offender each year in terms of property.

The charity Drugscope welcomed the senior officer's comments and said that heroin prescribing could be "an extremely effective form of drug treatment".

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