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Father’s desperate plea for his jailed addict daughter

The parents of a young woman who has been grappling with heroin addiction for 15 years are appealing to the authorities to decriminalise drug use to improve the chances of rehabilitation.

Drug use is an illness and addicts should be treated not imprisoned

“We have lived this problem for a long time and come to realise this is not a criminal act but a sickness – addicts need to be treated, not sent to prison where it is very clear they remain exposed to drugs,” the father said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to protect their 33-year-old daughter, the parents shared their story with The Sunday Times in the hope their experience will resonate among those in charge and lead to change.

Back in 2002, the late President, Guido de Marco, had questioned to what extent drug addicts were criminally responsible for their actions, when they were victims themselves.

More recently, Sedqa’s clinical director George Grech spoke about how decriminalisation would mean addicts could be treated as patients, in need of therapy, as opposed to criminals.

A Justice Ministry spokesman last June said “the government has no intention of decriminalising or liberalising Malta’s drug laws”.

The family is appreciative of all the support and services they have received, but fear all this has had little impact on their daughter who on Friday was charged with smuggling heroin into prison by concealing the sachets in intimate areas of the body.

The girl, who was visiting a friend, pleaded not guilty to the charges, including relapsing. The magistrate granted her bail against a personal guarantee of €5,000 so as not to disrupt her studies.

This was yet another chance to get back on the straight and narrow, and while her father remains hopeful she will reform, his wife is less optimistic.

“I feel angry that no matter how many chances we give her she betrays our trust and keeps getting into trouble,” the mother said, sadly conceding that at the moment the love for her daughter was being choked by an inner rage.

As any addict seeking the next hit, their daughter has over the years mixed lies and manipulation with promises she was clean. The couple, in their 60s, do not blame the system for their daughter’s ills, and neither do they have any regrets about her upbringing as they did all they could to ensure she had a head start in life.

They grasped the depths their teenage daughter had sunk to when she was first caught injecting in the toilets at the airport.

Over the years their daughter has been in prison twice, and left their home several times, only to return like the prodigaldaughter.

“I got her working in my shop and things would be fine for a while, but then she would run off again. Sometimes I question how she survived and wonder if she ever got into prostitution or trafficking,” the father said, his voice cracking as he described how he saw his girl becoming a skeletal shadow of herself.

Today his daughter is on methadone and is following a course in business studies, but he confides he is still scared of losing her to the “poison of the 21st century”.

“I feel we’re only buying time until we face the next setback. I worry about her and will continue helping her – it is not just my duty as a father, but an obligation. I brought her into this world to protect her,” he said, baring his unconditional love and acceptance that everyone had a cross to bear.

Their daughter flares up whenever either one of them attempts to broach the subject of drugs, so the two are in the dark over the extent of the problem.

“Drug use is an illness and addicts should be treated not imprisoned. I may be speaking as a father, but this is what I think should be the path to reform. My biggest wish is to see her change her ways before I die – I believe miracles do happen.”

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