Prince William raises drug legalisation on Shoreditch charity visit

The Duke of Cambridge visiting Shoreditch charity. Pic: Kensington Palace

The Duke of Cambridge has quizzed recovering addicts about the legalisation of drugs during a visit to a Shoreditch charity.

The Duke heard personal stories from former users on Tuesday when visiting the Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT).

For more than 50 years the Shoreditch-based charity has provided services for alcohol and drug addicts in the area.

Speaking to recovering addicts, the Duke said: “There’s obviously a lot of pressure growing in areas about legalising drugs. What are your individual opinions on that?

“I know it’s a big question, but you seem like the key people to actually get a very good idea as to, you know, what are the big dangers there – what are the feelings?” he asked.

Heather Blackburn, 49, said she thought the legalisation of drugs was “a good idea” and that money was wasted on “drug laws”.

“Most of the people I’ve known in recovery, 95%, had massive trauma and terrible stuff happen to them and using drugs to cope,” she said.

“Then you get put in prison, you don’t get the facilities and the actual help you need,” she added.

When Prince William asked if prison tackles the root cause of why someone takes drugs, Blackburn said it just punishes people rather than helping them turn their lives around.

The Duke had begun his visit at Paper & Cup, a coffee bookshop, where he heard from barista trainees about how the charity helped them get things back on track.

The social enterprise provides work experience and training for the long-term unemployed and those recovering from addiction.

He then chatted to people at the homeless drop-in and met recovery counsellors at the personal development and training centre.

Steve Coles, the charity’s CEO, said: “The Duke of Cambridge made everyone feel at ease and very comfortable as he chatted with them.

“He was keen to learn more about homelessness and addiction and asked some very interesting questions of our residents, trainees and staff,” he said.

“We’re a small, local charity and to be recognised for our day-to-day work through his visit today has really lifted and affirmed everyone.”

Another person recovering from addiction problems who spoke to William was Grace Gunn, a 19-year-old training to become a midwife.

She said: “You can’t just say ‘drugs are illegal’ or ‘now we can all go and do drugs’, because it doesn’t stop the fact we’re a nation of people hurting.

“We can’t undo all that overnight, it takes a long period of time.”

“But I’m a true believer people who end up in these places, we’re damaged people,” she added, whether through trauma or family relationships.

“You can’t have two-year waiting lists for trauma therapy – I’ve been waiting five years,” she said.

The Liberal Democrats were the only major party to include the legalisation of cannabis in their general election manifesto in June. However, the Duke’s visit perhaps reflects how the idea is slowly making it’s way into mainstream public opinion.

At the end of the discussion he thanked the group for “a very useful little snapshot”. 

You guys have seen it and it’s affected your lives in ways I can only imagine, so it’s very interesting to hear that from you,” he said.

Additional reporting by the Press Association

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