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For advice on drugs, email a PC

Young people have been invited to email a friendly local policeman if they have any questions about drugs, as part of a service thought to be the first of its type in Scotland.

Ask Kenny is a website that invites Borders youngsters to email PC Kenny Houston, the authority's drugs and alcohol awareness officer, with questions about drugs and alcohol.

Found via the Scottish Borders Council website, it sees the cheerful-looking PC Houston waving from the screen, next to an informal message where he stresses: "I am not here to criticise or judge you ... I am here to help."

But underneath is a steelier disclaimer that underlines he cannot guarantee confidentiality in circumstances where someone "discloses something serious".

"As a police officer, you have to be aware that I have a duty to investigate where someone may be at risk or harm," he says.

Lothian and Borders Police Divisional Commander Charlie Common said: "The launch of the Ask Kenny website is an innovative idea, which will give children of all ages and their parents a unique opportunity to ask the Borders drug awareness officer questions directly about the dangers of drug and alcohol use."

But the operations manager at Edinburgh-based Crew 2000, which provides young people with advice about drugs and support if needed, did not think PC Houston would have many emails to reply to.

Carla Ellis welcomed the police's efforts, but said: "I would be surprised if there was a deluge of e-mails from people using it to seek information regarding drug use."

She explained that many young people's experience of the police would be in its role as a law enforcer; even if this was not the case, they like to style themselves as anti-establishment.

But she accepted that the website's blunt disclaimer was necessary, and stressed that every organisation dealing with drugs might come across a situation where confidentiality had to be broken.

Meanwhile, Scottish Borders Council has also launched a teaching programme that aims to give primary school children a better understanding of the risks associated with drugs and alcohol.

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