Drug charities have warned that more investment is needed in drug
prevention and treatment programmes if the Home Office plans to
drug-test young people charged with certain crimes are to work.
It emerged last week that, in 10 pilot areas, 14-17 year olds
charged with crimes such as car crime, burglary or theft would be
tested for heroin, crack and cocaine. Anyone testing positive would
be referred to specialist youth workers.
Drug testing after charge began in 2001 for over-18s and now
operates in 66 police areas. An independent evaluation has shown
that, although testing on its own cannot reduce class A drug use,
it does help to identify drug using offenders and increase the
number accessing treatment.
Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive of social care charity
Turning Point said the government was right to try to engage with
young people, but warned the scheme would fail “unless testing is
accompanied by appropriate treatment”.
“There is a severe shortage of age appropriate intervention for
young people,” he said.
However, DrugScope chief executive Martin Barnes sounded a note of
“A positive result might not indicate problematic drug use in the
same way as with adult offenders,” he said. “There is also the risk
of young people being labelled as both offenders and drug users
when the offence and the drug use may not be connected.”