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  • Writer's pictureClare Jerrom

Offenders diverted to drug and alcohol treatment to tackle criminality

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

Courts will direct low-level offenders to drug and alcohol treatment through a new pilot scheme, the government has announced.

Through the pilot - launched in Liverpool and Teesside this week - ‘Intensive Supervision Courts’ aim to tackle the root causes of offenders’ behaviour, help them change their ways and cut re-offending.

Phil Bowen, Director for the Centre of Justice Innovation, said: "These pilot

courts offer a real opportunity to provide an intense, alternative sentence to custody for people whose offending is linked to substance use and other complex needs.

"The evidence suggests that, by combining wraparound supervision with regular judicial oversight which holds people and services to account, we can make a material difference to offending. These pilots allow us to test the effectiveness of these approaches in order to inform decisions on any potential wider roll-out," added Bowen.

When an offender is sentenced, the judge will order them to attend regular review meetings to check they are abiding by the requirements of their community sentence. Birmingham Magistrates’ Court will also be in the pilot focusing on female offenders and the underlying issues which drive their offending.

Specialist drug and alcohol treatment will be offered to offenders to enable them to conquer substance misuse which may be fuelling their criminality.

They will also be supervised by probation services who can carry out random drug testing.

They will also have support accessing education, employment and housing.

If offenders fail to engage, carry on with substance misuse or refuse to attend the follow-on meetings with the judge, they could face increased drug testing or face prison. Judges will also use privileges such as relaxing conditions to recognise good progress.

Studies show that getting offenders to confront their addiction through specialist support helps drive down their chance of committing further crimes.

Deputy Manager of Wipers, Kevin Campbell, said: "Encouraging offenders to tackle their addictions can break the cycle of crime. However, mentoring can be incorporated into the process to help keep the offender on track by having someone to support and empower them."

"Facing a withdrawal of drugs and alcohol can be daunting to anyone who has previously relied on substances as a coping mechanism. Providing them with tailored one-to-one support from mentors can assist massively throughout this process," concluded Kevin.


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