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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 March 2006, 22:06 GMT
City to drug test crime suspects
People arrested on suspicion of street robbery or burglaries will be made to take a drug test or face a 2,500 fine.

From 31 March, new powers come into force in Bristol allowing the police to drug test where they suspect Class A drugs use was a factor in the incident.

Those arrested will be tested for heroin, crack and cocaine.

People who test positive will then be required to attend a compulsory drug assessment to decide the extent of their problem and to accept treatment.

Anyone who fails to provide a sample or comply with a required assessment faces a fine of up to 2,500 and/or up to three months in prison.

Currently those arrested for such offences in Bristol are tested for Class A drugs on being charged, rather than on arrest.

An extra nine Criminal Justice Workers have been taken on by the Safer Bristol Partnership to cope with the extra workload.

The number of drug tests is expected to rise by around 60% from the current average of 160 a month.

Councillor Gary Hopkins, chairman of the Safer Bristol Partnership, said: "The Drug Interventions Programme in Bristol has proved very effective in helping people who misuse drugs and commit offences such as burglary to accept treatment.

"These new powers will mean many more people getting help and support, something which will be an enormous boon for local communities."

Superintendent Sue Leleu, from the Bristol Drugs Intervention Programme, said: "Carrying out drug testing on arrest, rather than only if the person is later charged, will give drug misusing offenders access to treatment sooner.

"This means they have an opportunity to reduce their pattern of offending much earlier on in the criminal justice process."

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