Compulsory drug testing of criminals has uncovered that nearly half are found to be abusing hard drugs.The scheme piloted across the summer by Staffordshire Police and drugs agencies aims to identify drug mis-users and direct them towards treatment as well as punishment.
Evidence from other research suggests as many as one in two of such offenders identified in this way are able to be helped away from drugs.
The Staffordshire pilot has been possible under new legislation provide for in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2001. There will now be further tests in Hackney and in Nottingham before evaluation in Spring 2002 and possible further roll-out.
Saliva samples are taken at police stations from people charged with theft, robbery or drugs offences to test for heroin or cocaine. Those tested positive are referred to local drug treatment agencies.
Home Office research has shown that there is clear evidence that class A drugs – particularly heroin and cocaine – are driving a significant amount of property crime. The current pilots follow new evidence emerging from the New English and Welsh Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Programme (NEW-ADAM) which has made a strong link between property crime and drug use, and found evidence that early identification of drugs abuse among offenders can help them kick the habit.