Facilitating foil supply agreements with the police

This article contains the text of a template letter that could have been completed by drug services who wished to extend harm reduction provision to include items that were not yet covered by specific exemptions under Section 9a of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The provision of paraphernalia would normally be agreed at the DAAT or crime prevention partnership, and the letter sent to the police to confirm that agreement. Where a police service's boundaries cover more than one DAAT it would make sense for all the DAATs who come under the jurisdiction of the constabulary to be included in the letter, to enable the issue to be looked at only once by the whole constabulary.

The person to whom the letter should be addressed will vary from place to place ­ it will usually be the police service representative on the DAAT or crime prevention partnership. The letter should have made it easy for the police to provide the necessary reassurances (sometimes referred to as a 'letter of comfort') to enable services to proceed without fear of legal problems.

The text of the letter is below:


Re: Distribution by drug services of items designed to reduce drug related harm that are not specifically exempt from the provisions of The Misuse of Drugs Act, Section 9A.

As you know, Section 9A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is a general prohibition on the supply of items to be used for the preparation or consumption of illicit drugs. However, it includes provisions to allow drug services to lawfully supply injecting drug users with:

  • needles;
  • syringes;
  • pre-injection swabs;
  • spoons;
  • citric acid and ascorbic acid;
  • filters; and
  • ampoules of water for injection.

These are supplied in order to reduce the risk of transmission of blood borne viral infections, such as HIV and viral hepatitis amongst injecting drug user populations and the wider community.

Harm reduction programmes have had a significant impact on blood borne virus transmission rates. The list of exempt items has been extended several times in recent years to add items of ‘paraphernalia’ that were previously illegal, with the express intention of removing the threat of prosecution from drug workers.

But, the list of exempt items is still not comprehensive, and the distribution of other items such as:

  • foil (for encouraging smoking heroin as opposed to injecting it);
  • tourniquets (to help people find superficial veins and prevent progression to more dangerous injection sites); and
  • crack pipes (to encourage crack users into contact with services, and to encourage them not to inject)

are not yet exempt in law.

Supply of these products by drug services has substantial potential to help us engage with drug users to reduce:

  • drug related harm;
  • drug related litter;
  • community concern; and
  • blood borne virus transmission.

We would like to join other services in the UK that are currently providing some/all of the above as part of the service that we offer to reduce drug related harm.

As the prosecution of a worker or manager from the drug service for providing these items would not be in the public interest we would be very grateful if you could join other police services in confirming that were we to provide these items:

a) that breaches of section 9a of the Misuse of Drugs Act by drug services would not be policing priority; and that

b) should your view on this was to change, you would take a crime prevention approach and inform us so that we could stop supply until such time as an agreement had been reached rather than investigate and prepare a file for the CPS.

If you would like further information, or to discuss this matter further, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

yours sincerely,


Exchange Supplies,
1 Great Western Industrial Centre,
Dorchester, Dorset DT1 1RD, UK


01305 262244