'Jail gave me a PHD in drug dealing'

Published Tuesday, 30 October 2012
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As police hail a crackdown on illegal drug networks in Northern Ireland as a success, UTV talks to one former dealer who says he only came out of prison better equipped than ever for a life of criminality.

'Jail gave me a PHD in drug dealing'
Police raiding properties for drugs during Operation Torus. (© UTV)

Operation Torus saw more than 2,400 raids carried out across Northern Ireland over an eight-week period, with 400 arrests made and drugs worth more than £1m seized.

But questions are still being asked about whether police are winning the war on drugs - or if it is even a war that can be won.

One young man, who started taking drugs aged just 12 and dealing to feed his habit at 14, spoke to UTV Live Tonight about his experiences.

"The key economic figures in the neighbourhood was the drug dealer. There weren't many role models - broken families, stuff like that - and that's how it all started," he said.

"I was only selling drugs to pay for them. I was taking so much of them. Everyone else was doing it. Why pay for them when you can get them free?"

At 17, he was jailed for possession of the Class A drug speed. But after his release, he only became a bigger player on the drugs scene - getting hooked on heroin and also selling the killer drug.

I went into jail and came out with a PHD in criminality and drug dealing.

Former dealer

"You made contacts inside that got you the drugs cheaper. I went through the entire Class A list myself," he said.

"People say if you take heroin, you will eventually die. The first time you take it you think: 'Well, that didn't kill me.' You don't realise when you try and stop it you can't.

"You just keep going further and further into this pit."

Operation Torus aimed to tackle the drugs problem by taking dealers off the street and officers urged members of the public to shop those selling drugs on their doorstep.

"We would have concerns, particularly given the amount of drugs we've seized recently through drug trafficking and then also these drug dealers at street level," PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris said.

But he added that Operation Torus was a significant step in building the relationship between police and those living in areas where drugs are prevalent.

"I think it's very important in terms of public confidence around what the police service are doing. It's given local communities the confidence to report drug dealing to police," he explained.

We would have concerns at the scale of drug dealing that's going on... What we do know is that we've disrupted gangs.

ACC Drew Harris

However, the young man who spoke to UTV firmly believes that for every dealer taken off the streets, there are plenty more waiting in the wings.

"It's driven by revenue and greed," he said.

"If you take the drugs, you're a potential candidate to sell the drugs. And because one drug dealer is arrested, people aren't going to reform and change their lives.

"Someone is going to take his place obviously. And believe me, there are plenty waiting ..."

He's now been clean for three years, but for others a way out can come too late.

"I've had four accidental overdoses on heroin, two accidental overdoses on cocaine and was in hospital for three months," he said.

"Most of my friends who I grew up with in that lifestyle, who remain in that lifestyle, were either shot dead, in prison, or are severely addicted to Class A drugs."

Police say there will be more operations like Torus, but breaking a drugs trade worth millions - billions worldwide - could prove an insurmountable task.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
8 Comments
Terry in Belfast wrote (777 days ago):
Anon in Belfast. Please listen to what I’m saying. I said control and regulate. You can no control drugs (which is the ONLY realist option) if you hand the production, distribution and sale of them over to criminal gangs. That is what is happening now and that is why the so-called ‘war on drug’ has failed, is failing and will always fail.
a quiet man in Derry wrote (777 days ago):
the drugs market is not complicated to understand the system of prohibition that we use to control some drugs does not work the only result of police removing drugs from the street is to make the value rise this then brings in a more violent dealer who is attracted to the profits. these dealers do not care about the quality of the drugs only the profit. the supply and the demand go on. the violence increases the drugs become more dangerous and the jails get filled with people who are harming only themselves with proper regulation the government has seen the numbers of smokers go down year after year why is it that regulation works for tobacco the most evil and addictive substance but we are not able to regulate other less dangerous substances. instead we give them to criminals to profit from .the rest of the world has started to wind down the drug war so when are we going to grow up and deal with all substance like mature adults
Realist in England wrote (777 days ago):
Anon 23 - the harm caused by drugs is the exact reason why they should be decriminalised and why police forces should, and probably do, often show discretion in whether to charge people or not. If you could buy hash at a café like in Holland, who would go to a dealer? If fun drugs like ecstasy were available at known concentrations at pharmaceutical grade from a chemist, then why would people go to a dealer? Also, with information and limitless supplies of recreational drugs, why would people turn to dangerous stuff like heroin or those potentially harmful 'legal highs'? Decriminalisation would massively increase tax revenue whilst majorly decreasing the amount of tax payers money being wasted in a futile attempt to stop people from doing what they are going to do regardless. It would reduce harm by offering pure drugs at known dosages, uncut with any dangerous substances like warfarin, talc, other unexpected psychoactive drugs, etc. Importantly, it would remove the vast majority of dealers - those that were left would be selling lower quality substances for more money or really dangerous stuff like heroin that should presumably remain illegal. Resources could then be targeted at those people. Less crime, more tax income - a fool could see that such a policy would be win-win. Unfortunately, the right-wingers in control of these islands don't seem to be able to see beyond their self-defeating and dogmatic drug policies. The people who lose, as usual, are the average tax-payers on the street.
Anon in Belfast wrote (777 days ago):
Yes no problem, sure let them out of prison and let the drug dealers run our streets free. Please listen to what your saying. Don't forget the NHS costs for looking after addicts in their later years. If your son or daughter where to die because of a drugs overdose, you'd be the first to criticise the PSNI for not arresting the petty drug dealer who sold them the drugs in the first place. Think about it.
Terry in Belfast wrote (777 days ago):
Annon 23 in Belfast, I would say that it’s safe bet that if the PSNI wanted to remove £1millon worth of drugs from the streets it would have been cheaper for them to simply buy them of the dealers than to pay for 2400 raids.
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