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[Drug and Alcohol Findings] (2017) Mandatory assessment for arrestees does not cut crime. London: Drug and Alcohol Findings. Drug and Alcohol Findings Bulletin (28 March 2017) 4 p.

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Further evidence from England that schemes which force people arrested for certain offences to be tested for heroin or cocaine use and if positive to be assessed for treatment do not pay back in terms of treatment engagement or crime reduction.

The ‘Tough Choices’ policy:
‘Tough Choices’ was the term used to describe pre-sentence options introduced by the 2005 Drugs Act – testing on arrest and required assessments by a suitably qualified drugs worker. Under the Act, a drug test is required to be administered in custody following the arrest of an adult for a ‘trigger’ offence (mainly linked to theft, drugs and fraud). Senior police officers may also authorise testing after any alleged offence suspected to have been contributed to by heroin or cocaine use. The test uses an oral fluid/saliva sample taken from the suspect to detect recent (up to 48 hours) use of the drugs.

It is an offence to fail to comply with testing without good cause, to fail to attend and remain at an initial assessment within 28 days of a positive test, or (if considered needed) to fail to attend a follow-up assessment. Assessments are intended to provide opportunities for recent heroin/cocaine users to voluntarily engage with treatment and other support. Since April 2013 ‘Tough Choices’ and the broader drug interventions programme are no longer nationally managed, mandated and funded. Their continuation is now a matter for local discretion and funding through elected police and crime commissioners. There is some evidence of their continuation. For example, in 2012/2013, London’s police service extended test-on-arrest provisions across all of the capital’s boroughs.

Key points from summary and commentary
• In England ‘Tough Choices’ schemes require people arrested for certain offences to be tested for heroin or cocaine use and if positive to be assessed for treatment. Failure to comply is an offence.
• In one English police force area the most rigorous evaluation to date of such schemes found that attending the assessment neither led to greater engagement with treatment nor reduction in crime.
• Together with other evidence from England and Scotland, the implication is that such schemes risk criminalising arrestees who do not comply, without generating countervailing benefits.


Item Type:Evidence resource
Publication Type:Report
Drug Type:Alcohol or other drugs in general
Intervention Type:AOD disorder, Crime prevention, Rehabilitation/Recovery
Source:Drug and Alcohol Findings
Date:2017
Pages:4 p.
Publisher:Drug and Alcohol Findings
Place of Publication:London
Number:28 March 2017
EndNote:View
Subjects:J Health care, prevention and rehabilitation > Identification and screening > Identification and screening for substance use
MM-MO Crime and law > Crime prevention
MM-MO Crime and law > Criminal penalty
MM-MO Crime and law > Law enforcement and the justice system
T Demographic characteristics > Offender
VA Geographic area > Europe > United Kingdom

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