Court clears way for Sydney heroin clinic

SYDNEY, Reuters

An Australian church plans to open the country’s first legal heroin injecting room within weeks after a Sydney court ruled on Thursday its police license was legal.

“We could open in three, five or six weeks,” Uniting Church Reverend Harry Herbet said after the court ruling. “It just depends on the availability of medical staff,” he told Reuters.

The chamber of commerce in Sydney’s red-light district Kings Cross, site of the injecting room, had challenged the center’s license on technical grounds.

The state government provided money confiscated from criminals by the state government to help transform a former amusement center into a state-of-the-art clinic.

“The church’s aim has always been to do something to reduce the number of deaths from overdoses in the Kings Cross area. We think we can save lives,” said Herbet.

The injecting room, which will cater for 150-200 addicts a day, will be given an 18-month trial, after which the state government will make a decision on whether it becomes permanent.

Opposition to a heroin injecting center in Australia has been long and bitter. Opponents have ranged from Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Pope John Paul II to the United Nations.

In 1999, the Pope sent a letter to the Sisters of Charity ordering them not to get involved in an injecting center at Kings Cross. An illegal injecting room in a Uniting Church in the same area in 1999 lasted only a few days before police closed it.