A court decision has opened the way for one of Australia's leading churches, the Uniting Church, to set up the world's biggest legal heroin injecting room in Sydney's red light district.

The room is to be operated by the church under license from the state government of New South Wales as part of an 18-month trial aimed at preventing the 358 fatal overdoses that occur on average each year in the state.

Addicts will not be provided with the drug, but will be allowed to inject under medical supervision. Up to 200 injections of drugs are expected to take place daily in the room, which will be open for eight hours a day and staffed by nurses and drug-and-alcohol counselors.

The room, set up in a former pinball parlor in the red light district of Kings Cross, in central Sydney, contains eight stainless steel cubicles with two seats each, allowing 16 people to inject at any one time. Addicts will be provided with a clean syringe, a spoon, water and a swab.

Legislation has been changed to allow addicts to carry small quantities of drugs—meaning one gram of heroin, speed or cocaine or a quarter of a gram of ecstasy—provided they are on their way to the room to inject.

Last week the Supreme Court of New South Wales dismissed an attempt by the Kings Cross Chamber of Commerce to prevent the room from opening. The Chamber of Commerce, composed of proprietors of sex-shops and brothels, as well as other businesses, had claimed that Kings Cross was an inappropriate location because of its tourism trade.

Harry Herbert, a pastor and New South Wales executive director of the Uniting Church's Board for Social Responsibility, described the court decision as a "comprehensive victory."

"It's a relief to me that we can now get on with having this trial," ...

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