Drug deaths reduce after Robert's Law

Sharp increases in deaths caused by the super-strength opioid fentanyl have stalled – in what is a victory for Robert’s Law.

Longer sentences for supplying fentanyl were introduced last year, following a campaign called Robert’s Law. It was led by myself and the mother of Robert Fraser, an 18-year-old from Deal who died after taking the drug in 2016.

Official figures show the number of deaths from the opioid, which is 50 times stronger than heroin, fell from 106 in 2017 to 105 in 2018. It bucks a trend of significant increases in recent years. There were 35 deaths recorded as caused by fentanyl or fentanyl analogues in 2015, which jumped to 59 in 2016, an increase of 69%. That number rose again to 106 in 2017, an increase of 80%.

Tougher sentencing works. The year-on-year increases of fentanyl deaths have finally stopped. Now we need to get things going in the other direction. It is an evil drug – incredibly powerful and most users don’t know they are taking it, because the dealer has added it for profit. We needed our justice system to recognise this particularly reckless form of criminality.   Robert’s mum Michelle deserves huge credit. She has fought bravely so that Robert has a legacy. She has delivered something positive from utter misery.

In the US deaths from fentanyl have also been rising steeply. There were more than 20,000 in 2016, the year that Robert Fraser died.  After sentencing guidelines were toughened last June, a gang from West Yorkshire were the first major conviction – in January this year.  The trio were handed jail terms totalling 46 years – a record for fentanyl supply – with two of them sentenced to more than 16 years behind bars each.