A FRANK discussion about drug abuse formed part of a meeting between a senior police officer and a teenager representing young people.

Sixteen-year-old Ellen Terry had the chance to quiz Durham Constabulary’s Chief Constable Mike Barton at the force headquarters on Wednesday afternoon.

Ellen, from Belmont, who is studying for A-levels at Durham Sixth Form Centre, is this year’s Young Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for the county.

As well as asking him about why he became an officer and what the police look for in recruits, she asked him about substance misuse and education in schools.

Mr Barton, who has previously called for the decriminalisation of users to end the so-called ‘war on drugs’, said: “They were insightful questions that society should asking of policing.

“To have someone as wise in her youth as Ellen was impressive. Why are we trotting out the same old ‘Just Say No’ messages when it comes to drugs?

“She knows it does not work and we are all fooling ourselves that it does, and it is ill-serving our young people.

“We are not protecting them by making more stringent laws and asking the police to lock everyone up.

“We protect them by being more open and imaginative about we can devise society so it is safer for young people and for all of us.”

Mr Barton said Ellen will be invited to top team briefings to discuss the force’s future strategies to deal with a range of issues.

Ellen said: “I have a really good day, getting information from people who can help me achieve my aims, like the chief, as my year goes on.

“His response have been excellent and the stuff he has told me will be passed on to the police cadets.”

The session was part of the Takeover Challenge, during which she took over from the actual commissioner, former police officer Ron Hogg.

Mr Hogg said: “It is all about getting young people exposed to people make decision and the decision-making process.

“The way she has responded to this has been superb and she has really brought something fresh and comes to this with an entirely new perspective.

“She can invigorate the room with new ideas. I am really proud of her.”