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Alan Mackay reports
"Drug courts were introduced in America during the Reagan years"
 real 28k

Monday, 17 April, 2000, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
Report calls for more 'drug courts'
Drugs kit
Drug re-offenders face being sent to prison by the courts
A United Nations report says special courts for drugs offenders are a key way to reduce drug-related crime.

Dealing with drug abusers in special courts cuts the levels of re-offending and saves money in the long term, according to the research.

The report has been put before a conference on drugs courts at the Scottish police forces' college in Tulliallan, Fife.

Andrew Wells, the senior adviser to the UN group which produced it, said: "The basic message is don't give up because so many people say 'what's the point? Let's just legalise it'.

"Drug courts are an excellent example of best practice that does work."


US police
Drug courts began in the US
But the report warns there can be no half measures and courts are to be given powers to order treatment and rehabilitation with prison used as a sanction for offenders who drop out of the programmes.

The UK already has four pilot projects, where offenders who are considered suitable for rehabilitation are put on drug testing and treatment orders as an alternative to imprisonment.

The report says many repeat offenders are driven by their addiction or abuse of drugs and breaking the habit ends the cycle of offending.

Courts, health authorities, local councils and the prosecution service must work together to target the right offenders and see they complete the rehabilitation programmes.

It also refutes the suggestion treatment orders are a soft option and an easy escape from prison.

Courts 'expensive'

Drug courts with powers to order treatment are expensive but are said in the long run to save money because police, court and social services have less of a burden.

"Where sustained recovery and rehabilitation takes place former offenders are back in the community in employment, paying taxes, with healthy lifestyles and community relationships," says the report.


Cannabis
Treatment orders are given out
Paul Morron, criminal justice social work manager with Glasgow City Council, said: "I think people welcome a more effective way of dealing with drug offenders in this country.

"We would not need any change of legislation in Scotland. There would need to be some change in England but it is more a question of willingness to change."

Mr Morron said the pilot schemes under way in south Croydon, Liverpool and Gloucestershire had already begun to take offenders out of the cycle of crime caused by their drug abuse.

Drugs courts already exist in many parts of Canada, the United States and Australia and are under consideration in Scotland.

In North America judges oversee offenders' progress in kicking their habit and can use prison sentences if they drop out of the programme.

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25 Feb 00 | Scotland
Drug chief issues warning
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