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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Traces of cocaine found in Carlisle court toilets

Traces of cocaine found in busy public areas have confirmed there’s no hiding place from the class A drug.

Drugs swab photo
Reporter James Johnson with a swab

Concerns are growing about the devastating impact of hard drugs on Cumbria and the numbers of people gripped by addiction.

And a News & Star investigation today shows just how widespread the use of narcotics is – and the evidence of them which can be found in the most public places.

We used special wipes – which detect traces of both cocaine powder and crack cocaine – on surfaces in male and female toilets at seven key locations in Carlisle where the public can easily access the toilets.

The places visited were: Carlisle Magistrates’ Court; Carlisle Crown Court; the Citadel train station; McDonalds; the Lanes shopping centre; the Civic Centre; and the public toilets beside Town Dyke car park.

Traces of the drugs were found in four of those places – the Lanes, Town Dyke, the station and the magistrates’ court

The wipes used are a simple and easy way of testing for the presence of the class A drug, as they turn blue when they detect a trace.

As they could also detect traces from fingers – such as on doorknobs – the News & Star chose to only swab flat surfaces which could potentially have been used to lay drugs out on. This included the tops of toilet roll holders, toilet lids and toilet seats.

The male toilet in The Lanes and the female public toilets at Town Dyke both revealed traces. Both the male and female toilets turned the wipe blue at the Citadel train station and at the city’s magistrates court.

Our findings have prompted a warning from bosses of the venues involved that they will not tolerate anyone using or carrying drugs on their premises.

A spokeswoman for The Lanes, which our reporter saw being cleaned within minutes of his positive result, said: “This is a family facility, which has 13,000 visitors every week, and recently won a five-star accolade for its high standards. We are very vigilant and our team work effortlessly to keep the toilets clean and tidy for the public. They are regularly cleaned and maintained to a very high standard.

“The Lanes has a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and anyone suspected of using drugs will be reported to the police.”

The firm stance was echoed by Virgin Trains, which runs Carlisle train station.

“Virgin Trains operates a zero tolerance policy with regard to drug abuse on its stations and trains,” a spokesman said. “The toilets at Carlisle are regularly cleaned and inspected and in the event of any drugs activity being discovered the British Transport Police (BTP) would be informed.

“We are naturally concerned to hear of your report and will be discussing this particular incident with the BTP. Our aim is always to provide safe and hygienic facilities for our customers to use.”

HM Courts & Tribunals Service, which runs the magistrates’ court says security is taken seriously to stop crimes taking place on its premises.

A spokesman added: “Public areas in all courts are patrolled regularly. Police are immediately notified of anyone carrying out illegal activities, including those found to be using or carrying illegal drugs.”

A spokeswoman for Carlisle City Council confirmed that it too takes the issue of drugs seriously and works closely with police to tackle the issue. She added: “All our public toilets are inspected and cleaned on a regular basis. The toilets next to Town Dyke car park are open between 7am to 6pm each day and are cleaned twice a day. We notify the police whenever there is a report of drug use.”

Earlier this week, the News & Star revealed the shocking level of drug abuse in the county.

A Freedom of Information request to Unity – provider of Cumbria’s drug and alcohol service – returned a breakdown of the different types of drug for which people sought help during the last reportable 12-month period.

Figures showed that two-thirds of all people seeking help for drug addiction in Carlisle named heroin as their main problem.

In that 12-month period, the statistics also showed that more people sought help for drug abuse in Cumbria than for alcohol addiction.

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