Drugs courts launched

The government has launched dedicated courts offering treatment in the community instead of custody for drug-using offenders.

Leeds and West London magistrates’ courts will pilot the new framework for offenders who commit crimes such as shoplifting or vehicle crime to feed their drug habits.

Offenders found guilty of offences are going to be sent to the dedicated courts for support and treatment from probation and drug interventions programmes. They will be brought back before the court if they fail to complete treatment.

Launching the pilot this week, the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer said the courts were “not a soft option” for drug-users.

He said: “The pilot provides an opportunity to see if a new, more focussed approach will lead to more effective treatment of offenders, in terms of breaking their addiction and preventing re-offending.

“The Home Secretary has emphasised that prison is the place for those who are serious, persistent or dangerous offenders but for those who are not, and whose offending is not so serious, punishment in the community is more appropriate.”

The pilot will run until July 2007.

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