THE chief constable of Dyfed Powys Police says UK authorities need to take a different approach to drug use – but he stopped short of suggesting drugs should be decriminalised.

Richard Lewis believes government and police forces need to change the thinking of the last half-century as drugs are still prevalent on our streets and he fears drug-related deaths in Wales will continue to rise if a different approach is not taken.

Mr Lewis said evidence around decriminalisation of drugs should be taken from other countries, but admitted it was a “political matter”.

Asked if he supported decriminalisation of drugs for personal use, a policy that has been adopted by countries such as Portugal, Mr Lewis told the BBC Politics Wales programme: “I don't go that far. I think two things can be true at the same time.

“I think we can have a public health approach to those that suffer from drug use, those that are addicts, and we can have a criminal justice response to those that peddle drugs in our communities.

“But it's important that we do take evidence from other countries.”

In 2020, there were 224 deaths related to drug poisoning in Wales, 77 per cent of which were related to heroin or morphine.

According to Public Health Wales, deaths involving cocaine have been on the rise, representing 15 per cent of all drug misuse deaths in 2020.

Mr Lewis added: “Despite some notable successes in terms of seizures, we still see those drugs on our streets.

“Having spoken to numerous heroin addicts... I asked one heroin addict 'As soon as we take your dealer out how soon is it before you are able to access drugs?'. And he said 'The same day'.

“If we keep doing things in the way that we have for the last 50 years, we will achieve the same results and deaths will continue to rise.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has already established a new group looking at whether to decriminalise cannabis.

As Wales' newest chief constable, Mr Lewis has also called for the nation’s four police forces to be scrapped – including Dyfed Powys – and be replaced with a single nationwide service.