Cranstoun’s West Midlands Arrest Referral Service aims to reduce the cycle of crime and substance use by assessing individuals who may be eligible for an alternative to custody.

We spoke with Arron Owen, Service Manager and National Lead for Criminal Justice at Cranstoun, about the service commissioned in 2020.

About Cranstoun

Cranstoun is a charity that works to implement social justice and reduce harm and has been operating since 1969. They provide services that range across drugs and alcohol, criminal justice, domestic abuse, harm reduction, housing, and young people. You can read our case study on their pre-arrest drug diversion scheme known as DIVERT here

What inspired Cranstoun’s Arrest Referral Service?

After undertaking research into how to tackle the drivers of drug-related crime, the West Midlands PCC commissioned this service in 2020 as part of the 8-point approach to drugs, published in 2018. As all seven local authorities within the West Midlands operated their arrest referral service individually, a uniform service was necessary for better outcomes. 

About Cranstoun’s West Midlands Arrest Referral Service 

Operating within West Midlands’ four police custody suites are 25 arrest referral workers who provide drug and alcohol using individuals with assessments, referrals, harm reduction advice, Naloxone and needle exchange, and Community Sentence Treatment Requirement (CSTR) assessments. They do so by first completing a required assessment following a custody drug test or a voluntary assessment after a cell sweep. They then arrange follow up support and/or treatment as best suits each person. The team also work closely with Liaison and Diversion in custody. The service operates 365 days a year and is open between 7 am-10 pm during the week and between 8-4 pm on weekends. If anyone is released from custody during closed hours, then custody staff can use the online booking system to book them an appointment with the team. 


The service is funded by the West Midlands PCC with additional support provided by West Midlands Probation Service and is in partnership with Cranstoun. 


Cranstoun’s approach is separate from the police so that the interventions within custody do not interact with any of the criminal proceedings except if there is a risk factor or someone admits an offence. They aim to deal with the most acute issues so that the individual receives the support they need and the best intervention at the time. It is important to note that it is not always in the best interests of the service user to be immediately referred to a drug and/or alcohol service for treatment particularly if they are homeless or if there is other trauma involved. The acute issue, as identified within the care plan, should take priority and referrals made to relevant agencies. 


Cranstoun has tried to have a big impact on the use of community sentence treatment requirements- drug, alcohol, and mental health treatment requirements. Many cases are assessed in custody by the arrest referral worker and then go to court where they are reassessed for their suitability for a CSTR. However, the assessments are the same so a suitability decision can be made at first contact with consent. If they then go to court, Cranstoun can provide this information as part of the pre-sentence report so that the judge doesn’t have to adjourn and can make an informed decision rather than just issuing a custodial sentence or fine. This has led to an increased number of CSTRs. 

Tailored interventions

The team works closely with the treatment teams to ensure that people get the right treatment, and to monitor their progress. There has been a huge increase in the number of people using treatment services. The team works directly with seven services across the West Midlands and has referred to over 25 local authorities across the country as the service is open to anyone who comes into police custody and not just residents of the West Midlands. Everyone is case managed during the period between release from custody and first treatment appointment. Contact is maintained via phone, letters, and face-to-face appointments. Sometimes a one-off intervention is sufficient but if they are higher risk or require longer term support the team can accommodate this. All the interventions are tailored to each service user. They are also advised of the risks and consequences of their current lifestyle. The team works with police in custody to explain why they do what they do as they are the first people that service users come into contact with. 


Following engagement with the service, over 1000 people have been referred to drug and alcohol treatment and 397 people issued with a Drug Rehabilitation Requirement or Alcohol Treatment Requirement at court instead of a custodial sentence. There is currently an ongoing evaluation.

If you would like to learn more about this service, please contact Arron Owen at


This case study was compiled by Maysa Clam in 2022.

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