Drug abuse in Gloucester is ‘destroying’ some parts of a once pretty city, according to one of Britain’s top high court judges.
The Honourable Mr Justice James Dingemans made the statement during his summing up to the jury hearing evidence in the murder trial of Neil Bennett at Bristol Crown Court.
The jury made a site visit to Gloucester Park this month, the scene of where Mr Bennett was fatally stabbed in July last year.
Sir Dingemans said: “There is no doubt Gloucester is a lovely city and that this part of Gloucester has been prettier in the past.
“You have heard that there are parts of the city, like the areas you have seen on your visit, that have been destroyed by drug abuse.
“You may have feelings of disgust and pity, but you must not let this cloud your judgement when delivering your verdict.”
Drugs have been at the centre of much of the evidence during the six week trial. The court has heard how the four defendants operated a drugs den at Spa Villas in Montpellier. Gloucester Park has become a central hub for drug dealing in recent years, with some city residents declaring it a no-go area at night.
Brian Jones, who worked with a charity supporting the homeless in Gloucester for more than 25 years, said the problem of drug abuse is hard to ignore.
“Ten years ago, an investigation in Gloucester found it had the cheapest hard drugs in the south west,” he said.
“Drugs has been a long term problem in Gloucester and very little has changed.
“The resources for street people and those who live on the edges of society are just not good enough in the city.
“The Night Shelter was blamed on a lot of problems when it was in fact providing a vital resource for people.
“That is not there anymore. There has never been enough jobs in Gloucester and there has always been people who are unemployed, or homeless who are looking for an escape, drugs gives them that.”
Detective Inspector Ian Ginn, who has led the murder inquiry, insisted the public should not be worried about drugs and violent crime.
“Knife crime is not out of control in Gloucester,” he said. “It is not different here than to many other cities across Britain.
People should not be worried, it is such a low proportion of violent crime. This incident happened within a group of people who knew each other and operated in a certain environment based on drugs. People who want to go out in Gloucester should not have any concerns that this will effect them.”
The four defendants accused of Neil Bennett’s murder, Christopher Horn, of Denmark Road, Tyler Johnson of no fixed address, Lucy Dowdall and Ricky James of Spa Villas, all deny the charges.
Safer Gloucester is staging a Paws on Patrol event in Gloucester Park on Saturday, June 7 from noon to encourage dog owners to report any crime they see in the city to police.