Pubdate: Fri, 23 May 2008
Source: Argus, The (UK)
Copyright: 2008 Newsquest Media Group


An Argus investigation today uncovers the shocking  extent of class A
drug use in some of Sussex's busiest  public buildings.

Our study has revealed cocaine is being flagrantly used  in court
houses, town halls, universities, a museum and  even Brighton and
Hove's busiest library.

Drug testing kits, similar to those used by the  American police, show
junkies are hiding in public  toilets to prepare their fix.

Last night drug consultants warned that cocaine use was  on the rise -
and said even teenagers were becoming  addicted to the deadly white

Of the 17 court houses, council run building, further  education
buildings and Government offices tested, only  two did not contain
samples of the killer drug.

Brighton Kemptown MP Des Turner said: "It is not a  happy finding. It
shows just how worryingly widespread  cocaine is.

And Chief Inspector Dick Coates, of Sussex Police,  admitted: "Drug
use in society as a whole is a  problem."

Cocaine use in Sussex reaches far beyond bars and clubs  and into the
area's town halls, libraries, law courts,  hospitals and museums.

An investigation by The Argus reveals more than 90% of  public toilets
tested are being used to prepare and  snort cocaine.

Positive results were found in five courts, four town  halls, two
hospitals, at both of Brighton's  universities, a library and museum.

Last night MPs called for on the authorities to take  greater action
to prevent drug users taking the Class A  substance in public.

Drug experts also warned that greater availability  meant that cocaine
powder use is on the up - and that  younger people are becoming addicted.

The test swabs used by our reporter turn blue in the  presence of

The areas tested were always flat surfaces within  toilet cubicles,
where people might prepare and take  cocaine.

Dr Richard Bowskill, the lead consultant at the Priory  Hospital in
New Church Road, Hove, which helps addicts  recover, said: "My
impression is that cocaine misuse is  increasing.

"It is becoming more widely available and people are  starting to use
cocaine at an earlier age than they  were ten years ago.

"In the past people were either drug addicts or  alcoholics but now
there is a crossover between the  two. Often people are both.

"Often people take cocaine first because it will allow  them to drink
more alcohol but it produces a harmful  chemical in their body worse
than alcohol.

"Cocaine has a more refined image than other drugs,  such as
amphetamines or LsD, because it is seen to be  taken by glamorous
celebrities. But the more accepted  it is the more people are taking
it who are susceptible  to developing problems or addictions."

The Argus tested magistrates' court toilets in  Brighton, Eastbourne,
Lewes and Worthing. Lewes Crown  Court toilets was also swabbed. Each
came back  positive.

Traces of cocaine were also found at the Royal Sussex  County Hospital
and at Eastbourne District General  Hospital.

Positive results were also found at town halls in  Eastbourne, Hove
and Worthing, at Brighton's Jubilee  Library and jobcentre and at
Worthing Museum and Art  Gallery.

Evidence of cocaine use was also apparent in the  toilets at the
University of Sussex and the University  of Brighton.

Of the 17 venues tested, only Crawley Magistrates'  Court and City
College Brighton and Hove did not reveal  traces of cocaine.

MPs last night spoke of their shock at learning of the  widespread
cocaine use and called for the authorities  to take action to protect
their premises from drug  takers.

Eastbourne MP Nigel Waterson said: "This is truly  appalling and shows
the prevalence of hard drugtaking  in our area. It is a very
lamentable state of affairs.  I would call on the borough council, the
health  authorities and the court system to take strong  measures to
police their own premises."

Brighton Pavilion MP David Lepper said: "I would  certainly have hoped
court houses and town halls would  have measures in place to prevent

"It's a disturbing sign of the prevalence of the use of  cocaine and a
sign of the need to keep up the education  campaigns about the dangers
of drugs.

"Also, these are public buildings and we want to make  sure people are
free to use them without feeling they  are going to come across people
taking drugs."

Brighton Kemptown MP Des Turner added: "It shows just  how worryingly
widespread cocaine is.

"It is not a happy finding. People seem to think  cocaine has become
socially acceptable because of  celebrities using it but that is not
the case."

Cocaine is a stimulant which can be smoked for an  immediate strong
effect, or sniffed.

People taking it feel more awake and confident. It  raises the body's
temperature, makes the heart beat  faster and helps stave off feelings
of hunger.

The Argus contacted Brighton and Hove City Council,  which runs Hove
Town Hall and the Jubilee Library,  Eastbourne Borough Council, which
runs Eastbourne Town  Hall, and Worthing Borough Council, which runs
Worthing  Town Hall and the Museum and Art Gallery.

We also spoke to Crawley Borough Council, which runs  Crawley town
hall, the Department for Work and  Pensions, which runs the jobcentre,
the University of  Sussex and the University of Brighton and both East
  Sussex and Brighton hospital trusts.

Officials from each of the premises which tested  positive said they
did not condone the use of the drug  and said their toilets were
regularly monitored and  cleaned.

Some also said that they were not able to monitor who  uses their

After positive tests in five court buildings, a  spokesman for the
Courts Service said: "Security checks  are carried out at courts
across the country to  safeguard public safety and to prevent illegal
activity  taking place on the premises.

"At all Sussex courts, all public areas, including the  public
toilets, are patrolled regularly."

Chief Inspector Dick Coates, Sussex Police's district  commander in
Eastbourne, said: "There is a wide range  of society using drugs
recreationally, not just those  you would normally associate with it.

"But I don't think it is any worse in East Sussex than  anywhere else."
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