A CRIME chief has urged Government to rethink its drugs policy as the North-East saw a rise in drug mortality rates, the highest in the country.

Durham's Police, Crime and Victim's Commissioner Ron Hogg was speaking ahead of International Overdose Awareness Day, and highlighted the fact that there were 83.2 deaths per one million people in the North-East, a 7.5 per cent increase from 2016, and almost double the English average of 42.7 drug-related deaths per million.

He said: "This is the human cost of a drug policy that isn’t working. Drug users should be able to seek medical treatment without fear of being criminalised.

"I continue to call on the Government to carry out a fundamental review of the current UK drug policy.

“We need more investment in services to support people to recover from drug addiction. Cutting funding for treatment services creates a false economy, because the cost of people remaining addicted to drugs will fall elsewhere on public services."

He said he was 'deeply concerned' that public health funding was being cut by £8m in Durham by 2020.