The Centre calls for expansion of evidence-based practices and commission into alternative drug policies.
Following the publication of the Government’s ten-year drug strategy for England and Wales, the recent publication of Dame Carol Black’s Independent Review of Drugs, and against a backdrop of rising drug-related deaths, the Home Affairs committee recently began an inquiry into drugs. At the Centre, we welcomed this inquiry and the opportunity to feed in, drawing on our long-standing interest in areas such as problem solving justice, effective community sentencing and effective point-of-arrest diversion.
As part of our work, the Centre provides a range of support, training and research services to frontline justice practitioners, to bolster the justice system’s ability to tackle the complex issue of substance misuse, and the often interlinked issues of trauma, mental health illness and domestic abuse. We drew on this experience, and our knowledge of the research, in this our submission to this inquiry. The evidence is clear: when we empower practitioners to combine accountability and help, we can help people to overcome the underlying issues that have brought them into the justice system in the first place.
We believe that following the publication of the Government’s ten-year drug strategy, the focus should be on funding and implementing evidence-based practices across the justice system. Our evidence submission calls on the Committee to urge the Government to implement the following four goals by the end of this Parliament:
- Ensure that all 43 police forces have effective point-of-arrest drug diversion schemes in place.
- Roll-out the Community Sentence Treatment Requirement programme across all probation regions.
- Pilot and evaluate a problem-solving court approach for people with substance misuse issues.
- Roll-out of the Family Drug and Alcohol Court model across all local authorities in England and Wales.
In addition to these four goals, we also believe that drug policy has the potential to do more to reduce the demand on our hard-pressed justice agencies. The time has come to soberly assess the experience of similar jurisdictions to England and Wales that have explored and implemented different drugs policies, including the decriminalisation of drug possession charges and legal regulation of cannabis. We need to examine the impact on health outcomes, drug related deaths, and demand reduction in justice and other public policy areas, and learn from our neighbours the lessons about the risks and drawbacks of certain approaches.
Sadiq Khan’s plans to create a commission examining cannabis legality is a good first step. There is public support for this discussion, and the Mayor of our capital has a powerful public voice to start the debate. We hope the commission will explore the extensive evidence available on developing the right public health approach to cannabis regulation for the UK, and look to examples outside of the approach taken in some American states. The Government should set up its own commission into both this, and the decriminalisation of drug possession charges, to see whether and how these approaches could work in the UK.
Read this submission in full here.