Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner – Addiction


Friday, October 12th, 2012. 3:08pm


Visitors to Ely Police Station Open Day were allowed to touch and smell cannabis.

Seized Cannabis at Ely Police Station Open Day

Individuals suffering from addiction are responsible for a significant amount of crime; those with problematic addictions impose substantial costs on society as a whole.

I have been closely following the debate on our country’s policies on drug abuse which are the subject of a current inquiry by the Home Affairs Select Committee. I’ve also taken an interest in how those with addiction problems are treated locally by the criminal justice and health systems.

We need to have more emphasis on helping criminal addicts deal with their health problems; however that does not mean I think we should decriminalise the possession or supply of any currently illegal drugs. I do not want to see a situation where an individual is punished less for a crime because they were under the influence of drugs, or because they are an addict. Sentencing aims to protect the public and punish, deter and rehabilitate the offender, we have to do all those things, not just one of them.

I want to see sentences which are designed to get people’s health and lives back on track which benefits both them, and wider society. Currently sentences involving drug treatment orders can involve very minimal treatment, magistrates are not clear about exactly what they are sentencing someone to. I would like to see much greater openness from the probation service about what treatment orders actually amount to.

Where people need medical help with tackling their addictions that ought be easily accessible, committing a crime and ending up in court shouldn’t be the easiest route to help.

Overview

I have published a summary of my views on what Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner ought do.

4 comments/updates on “Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner – Addiction

  1. V Crompton

    I agree entirely in the issues you raise, the Police and Crime Commissioner will need to work together with a range of agencies to ensure all aspects of policing and community safety are aligned. i also agree that those who commit crime should be brought to justice, regardless of whether or not they are under the influence of addiction.

    I would just like to clarify that in Cambridgeshire there is a Drug Intervention Programme, which works with those affected by Class A drug misuse at any point in the criminal justice system. They aim to get people into treatment and to reduce crime,and those in need of treatment are usually assessed within 5 days. However, the myth that those affected by addiction need to get into the criminal justice system to get into drug treatment is simply not the case. Inclusion work tirelessly to ensure waiting lists are kept to a minimum and treatment is as effective as possible. At the current time someone wishing to access treatment can have an assessment within 5 working days and treatment commencement within 10.

    Therefore I would urge anyone affected by their own, or someone else’s drug misuse, who is living in Cambridgeshire, to contact Inclusion on 0300 555 0101, or for information visit http://www.talktofrank.com.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Vickie Crompton is the Drug and Alcohol Action Team Strategic Manager at Cambridgeshire County Council; she is the officer responsible for managing the “Inclusion” service the council contracts out that she refers to.

      The kind of information provided in the above comment needs to be routinely published; magistrates in particular need to know how long someone they sentence will be waiting for an assessment and for treatment to commence. They also in my view need to know what that treatment will comprise of, and how onerous the requirements of the programme will be so they can take that into account with sentencing.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Home Affairs Select Committee has published its report titled: “Drugs: Breaking the Cycle”.

    My view is it is rather fence-sitting. Its main points appear to me to be recommending more research and more education.

    Better education, enabling people to make smarter more rational choices is, in so many areas the root cause of problems and an ideal place to focus intervention.

    The recommendations for further research are on the impact of policies adopted, or changed, elsewhere; and not for example on for example the health impacts of recreational cannabis use.

    It is also interesting to see the committee acknowledging local government’s new leading role in public health and suggesting central government keep a close eye on their work treating addiction.

    In committee Cambridge MP Julian Huppert voted in favour of making cannabis a class C rather than class B drug which would be expected to reduce sentences for both possession and supply.

    Drug related crime is mentioned only briefly; even though this is a significant way individuals’ drug use impacts on wider society, as well as via costs arising from health impacts.
    Recommendation 32, the one about drug related crime, states:

    Identifying drug-related crime is vital in order to ensure that the right approaches to reduce re-offending are targeted and effective. Drug-dependent offenders are often prolific re-offenders—by identifying their prevalence, the Government and local authorities can make targeted interventions in the community

    It, almost, but not quite, says that one of the aims of sentencing ought be to address any addiction / health problem the offender has. With attendance or other requirements such an aspect of a sentence could also punish. Such an approach could be a tougher punishment than we see typically now. One of the really key things in my view is that we don’t let people off more lightly because they have committed an offence while using drugs, or to pay for drugs; so as I wrote in the above article, all the sentencing aims need to be addressed.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    p67 of the Government’s Queen’s Speech Briefing notes, on the subject of the Offender Rehabilitation Bill states:

    The Bill would provide for drug abusing offenders to be required to attend treatment appointments, and expand the drugs that an offender can be required to be tested for from class A to class B.

    Currently adding a drug rehabilitation requirement to a community sentence requires the offender’s consent; presumably this is what will change. Once a drug rehabilitation order becomes part of someone’s sentence breaching it can already as result in a return to court for another sentence to be considered.

    It will be very challenging for those who provide the drug treatment services to have to deal with offenders who are not willing participants. I think this is positive though, it means there will be more work done persuading, and educating people, that their behaviors need to change, to-date help has only been available to those who’ve decided for themselves that they want to tackle their addiction problems.

    I would not want to see medical treatment forced on offenders (the circumstances where enforced treatment are justified are very rare), but requiring attendance at appointments where attempts to educate and persuade can take place is I think reasonable and desirable.

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