Shocking pictures of the condition drug addicts have left public toilets in have been released by South Hams District Council.

The district council closed the toilets in Coronation Road, Market Square and Steamer Quay in Totnes before Christmas on the grounds of public safety.

The council has now released the pictures and issued a statement detailing the potential health risks to the public from diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

It said: “There is one very simple reason why South Hams District Council closed the three public toilets in Totnes over Christmas. They posed a risk to public health because they were being misused by a small number of drug users.

“The drug users would often leave behind needles and spray blood on the walls. If used, the needles – also known as sharps – which may have been contaminated with infected blood, could transmit more than 20 diseases, including hepatitis B, C and HIV.”

Council deputy leader Cllr Simon Wright said: “We are terribly sorry to hear, through the paper, that one person was inconvenienced by the closure of the toilets and we sincerely apologise to her for any distress that this may have caused.

“We have now decided to publish images showing the graphic scenes that our officers regularly face when they clean the toilets in Totnes. These images are just horrific, but by sharing them we hope people will understand the situation we were faced with.

He added: “The images we have published today show the constant state of the toilets.

“Despite our best efforts to keep them clean, there is no way you would want to take a child into one of these toilets and find it in this state. It is too horrific to imagine the implications of a child picking up one of these needles.”

“The people of Totnes have been incredibly tolerant of the drug users who misuse these public conveniences and the work that we have been doing with groups such as Rise Addaction is beginning to improve the situation.

“However, there is a small group of people who show absolutely no regard to the people of Totnes, abuse every facility we make available and reject the offers we give to support and help them. I want to assure the people of Totnes that we are as frustrated by this situation as you are.”

The council said it had committed huge resources to keeping the toilets clean – sometimes having to clean them up to five times a day.

At a multi-agency meeting before Christmas the problem was discussed at length, including the location of the toilets, the issues faced by staff and the worst case scenarios if they were left unattended.

It was agreed that, in the interests of public safety, the toilets would be closed except on market days and there will be another meeting next week to review the situation and discuss a long-term plan of action.*****This week, the National AIDS Trust has denied there is a risk of HIV infection from carelessly discarded needles, as claimed by the district council. Kat Smithson, director of policy and campaigns at NAT (National AIDS Trust), said: “The problem of discarded needles is a concern for many people who would like public areas to be safe and pleasant, particularly for children.“At the same time, it is important to reassure the public regarding HIV risk. HIV can be transmitted through the sharing of injecting drug equipment, however, HIV is a very delicate virus that does not survive outside the body well and therefore risk from a discarded needle is extremely low.“Additionally, HIV prevalence amongst people who inject drugs is very low in the UK due to effective harm reduction programmes. There have been no cases anywhere in the world of somebody contracting HIV through a needle stick injury from a needle discarded in a public place.”