DORSET Police's recently appointed chief constable says he believes a new approach is needed in tackling county lines drug dealing, and is looking at options to protect young people from exploitation.

Speaking at a meeting on Portland organised by the Conservative party - but attended by councillors across the political spectrum – Chief Constable James Vaughan said he was "very open minded" about trying different methods in the war on inner city drug gangs targetting the area.

"Einstein's theory of madness is that if you keep doing the same things and expect a different outcome you must be mad – we keep doing the same things, don't we?", he said.

"At the moment the policy we've had over the years, in continuing to criminalise and enforce, is not leading us to safe streets and the problem is growing at the moment. I'm excited to see whether new government schemes being trialled will make a difference.

Whilst Mr Vaughan said he supports the legal use of drugs such as cannabis and morphine for treating health conditions, he said it is unhelpful to confuse this with the issue of drugs being decriminalised, something he is against.

However he spoke of a pragmatic approach to preventing harm coming to young people at risk of exploitation, and wants to work with council and health chiefs on a joined up approach to protecting vulnerable people in the county.

"Where's the appetite to prosecute a 15 year old vulnerable kid who's been coerced into selling drugs by a London gang?", said Mr Vaughan – who was a part-time voluntary youth worker before he joined the police in 1992.

"There's no appetite for me to prosecute them – I think they need help from safeguarding and support.

"We're now seeing children as young as 12 getting involved in county lines. We're working with the CPS to look at how best to go after county line drug leaders without criminalising the very kids who have been victimised.

"One side of the debate is do we lock them all up? The other is a more compassionate approach. I believe the answer is to prevent them getting drawn into crime in the first place."

Speaking after the event, organiser cllr Katharine Garcia thanked the chief constable for speaking "openly and honestly, with such passion and pride about Dorset Police and their relentless fight against crime".

"He emphasised that without the support of our community in supplying the police with intelligence, the force would not be as effective as it is", she added.

"I welcome the opportunity to work more closely with Dorset Police to help to fight crime on Portland. By working together, we can make a difference.”