Drug testing on arrest expanded to help cut crime


The government is supporting police to expand the use of drug testing on arrest, as part of a comprehensive strategy to tackle the misery caused by drug misuse and cut crime.

More than £15 million will be invested over the next 4 years, to enable police to test suspects arrested for a broader range of offences and build an evidence base of the links between drugs and criminality. This will help drive down demand for illegal drugs and prevent further crimes.

A total of £375,000 will be offered to police forces immediately to increase their capacity to drug test on arrest. The government will offer £5,000 to all 43 forces in England and Wales to invest in extra testing equipment and training for police officers and staff this year.

And in addition to this, 5 forces will receive an additional £32,000 boost this year to increase testing for a wider range of offences – which could include domestic abuse and public order offences.

Drug testing upon arrest is already used by many forces. Police are able to test suspects in custody for the presence of opiates or cocaine in order to better understand the role of drug misuse in certain crime types.

Testing is currently used for a range of “trigger offences” defined in law. These are predominantly acquisitive crimes, such as burglary, robbery, and taking a motor vehicle without authority. Police also routinely test suspects in fraud offences and certain drug-related crimes, including possession and intent to supply.

The long-term funding would support the recruitment of drug referral workers who work in custody suites to identify individuals who have been arrested for non-trigger offences but could benefit from testing and referral into treatment. The funding secured would enable all forces to expand their use of drug testing on arrest, highlighting the commitment this government has to identifying and tackling drug misuse.

The government say it is keen for police to expand their use of the practice to identify a greater number of drug users and to crack down on so-called recreational drug use, ensuring that those who break the law face consequences.

Individuals who test positive for opiates or cocaine will be referred to a range of follow-up measures – including treatment and drug awareness courses – to tackle the problem at its root and reduce the prevalence of drug misuse across society.

The Home Office say it has worked with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to identify 5 forces to receive an additional £32,000 this financial year. These forces were selected based on a range of factors – including current police use of drug testing upon arrest and rates of drug possession in these areas.

The 5 forces are:

  • City of London Police
  • South Yorkshire Police
  • West Midlands Police
  • Hertfordshire Police
  • Gwent Police

The government says it is committed to tackling drug misuse across society and taking an end-to-end approach – going after the criminals and gangs who exploit the vulnerable, while helping those with addiction into treatment and recovery.

The comprehensive strategy to tackle the problems associated with drug misuse includes:

  • appointing Dame Carol Black as an independent adviser to drive forward progress in this area
  • setting up Project ADDER, an innovative approach which combines tough, targeted law enforcement with improved treatment and recovery services – the project is now up and running in 13 areas across England and Wales
  • commissioning the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to review the drivers of young people’s powder cocaine use in order to inform further action
  • announcing £148 million of new investment to cut crime and protect people from the scourge of illegal drugs – the package includes the largest increase in drug treatment funding for 15 years, as well as additional money to help police forces shut down county lines gangs


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