Brunstrom: 'Ecstasy is a remarkably safe substance. It's far safer than aspirin.'
Notorious chief constable Richard Brunstrom is facing demands to resign after publicly claiming that the illegal rave drug ecstasy is safer than aspirin.
In his latest bizarre proclamation, he insisted that the drug - which claims almost 50 lives a year - was a "remarkably safe substance".
And he went on to dismiss what he called "scaremongering" over the dangers, while predicting that all drugs would be legalised within ten years.
The comments from the gaffe-prone head of the North Wales force infuriated the families of youngsters who died after taking ecstasy.
Des Delaney, whose 18-year-old daughter Siobhan was killed by a single pill at a nightclub two years ago, said Mr Brunstrom "should go and stand by my daughter's grave every week and see how he feels".
Tragic: Siobhan Delaney died after taking an Ecstasy tablet at a nightclub two years ago. Her father Des has called Mr Brunstrom's comments 'absolutely ridiculous'
Campaign groups said that 53-year-old Mr Brunstrom's increasingly controversial public comments on drugs were no longer "compatible with his position" as a police chief.
His comments came during an interview yesterday on Radio 4's Today programme, in which he repeated his calls for the legalisation of outlawed drugs including heroin and cocaine.
Challenged over the well-documented dangers of taking drugs such as ecstasy, he said: "Actually the reverse is the case. Ecstasy is a remarkably safe substance. It's far safer than aspirin."
He added: "There's a lot of scaremongering and rumour-mongering around ecstasy in particular. It isn't borne out by the evidence."
Mr Brunstrom claimed that "Government research" showed ecstasy was safer than many other substances, including tobacco and alcohol.
When contacted by the Mail and asked to explain that claim, he declined to comment.
Recent figures show that between 1999 and 2004, UK deaths from ecstasy, a Class A illegal drug, rose from 26 to 48 per year - putting them roughly on a par with fatalities from cocaine.
The Department of Health was unable to give figures yesterday on the numbers killed by aspirin, which is taken daily by millions to reduce the risk of blood clots and other dangerous conditions.
The Home Office, which has repeatedly clashed with Mr Brunstrom over drugs policy, was quick to distance itself from his latest comments, stressing that ecstasy was anything but safe.
And campaigners said his comparison was "absurd", since aspirin is taken for medical reasons and also saves countless lives, whereas ecstasy is illegal and is taken for kicks.
Mary Brett, UK spokesman for the Europe Against Drugs campaign group, said: "This was an extremely stupid and irresponsible comment. Aspirin is taken as medication to help people get better. Ecstasy is taken to upset the chemical balance of the brain deliberately.
"Richard Brunstrom is supposed to be a figure of authority and responsibility, respected by young people, and he's sending out a very dangerous message.
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Safer than aspirin, Mr Brunstrom? Tell that to the 50 families a year who lose a child to this insidious drug
"When you add together all the stupid comments he has made, I believe he should quit."
Peter Stoker of the National Drugs Prevention Alliance said: "Mr Brunstrom should resign. His comments are increasingly incompatible with his position.
"Danger from an illegal drug isn't just a question of how poisonous it is in the short term - although any dose of ecstasy can kill - it includes the damaging behaviour which people are sucked into, and the harm it does to those around them, particularly their families."
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: "If you strike the attitudes taken by this particular chief constable, if you thoughtlessly downgrade cannabis, if you treat dangerous drugs as 'no worse than aspirin', you make a gift to the drug dealers and criminals who are destroying the lives of so many young people."
The Association of Chief Police Officers declined to comment since Mr Brunstrom was speaking as an individual. But privately its officials have made it clear that they strongly disagree with his stance on illegal drugs.
By MATTHEW HICKLEY
Last updated at 08:35 02 January 2008