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The Drug Interventions Programme is a key part of the United Kingdom's strategy for tackling drug abuse[1]. It aims to engage drug-misusing offenders involved in the Criminal Justice system in formal addiction treatment and other support, thereby reducing drug related harm and reducing offending behaviour [2]. Introduced in 2003, it is part of the governments 10 year drug strategy[3].


The Drug Interventions Programme (DIP) is the key crime reduction initiative involved in engaging substance misusing offenders in drug treatment. It does this through a variety of methods, some coercive, such as the Tough Choices program, and some by more traditional means. Class A drug-misusing offenders are identified on their journey through the CJS and steered towards treatment and wraparound support. Its key partners include police, the probation service, prisons, courts and other criminal justice agencies, as well as the National Treatment Agency and the Department of Health[4]. Over four years, there has been over £500 million spent on DIP[5]. It has been shown to be effective in its aims; since 2003, acquisitive crime (which is largely attributed to substance misuse) has fallen by 32 per cent in England and Wales. In areas with more intensive DIP activity, early evaluation showed crime falling faster in those areas than areas with less intensive DIPs[6].

Tough Choices

In December 2005, aspects of the Drugs Act 2005 were piloted at various DIPs around the country. Under the heading "Tough Choices", this included a "Test on Arrest" procedure, a "Required Assessment" process and an extension of the "Restrictions on Bail" scheme, which was legislated for under Section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Since April 2006, Tough Choices has been phased in across England and Wales.

Test on Arrest

Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984(PACE), it had been possible for police to drug test Detained Prisoners since 1984. The Drugs Act 2005 introduced, at selected "intensive DIP area" police stations, a mandatory drug test for every individual who had been arrested for a specified list of "trigger offences"; offences which had been shown to have a clear link to substance misuse, such as Theft. Individuals who refused to take this test, a "non-intimate saliva sample", could face up to three months in custody and a £2,500 fine. Individuals who tested positive were then compelled to undergo a two-part "Required Assessment" with a drug worker from their local DIP.

Required Assessment

Individuals who tested positive under the "Test on Arrest" scheme were required to see a drug worker for a single appointment. Although the Drugs Act 2005 had introduced a contingency for a "Follow-up Required Assessment" process, this measure was not implemented until March 2007. Individuals who failed to attend either of these appointments could face up to three months in prison or a £2,500 fine.

Restrictions on Bail

Restrictions on Bail had been introduced under the Criminal Justice Act 2003. This piece of legislation amended the Bail Act 1976 by reversing the presumption of bail to anyone who had tested positive to a class A drug, unless they agreed to undergo assessment and treatment with their local DIP for the duration of their court bail. This effectively obliged courts to implement a bail condition compelling such persons to attend their local DIP. The stated aim of this was to "prevent offending on bail". Failure to abide by this condition could result in the denial of further court bail. Restrictions on Bail was initially piloted in a number of areas but now operates across England and Wales

Non-Intensive DIPs

All "Drug and Alcohol Action Team" (DAAT) areas in the UK had created a DIP prior to the introduction of Tough Choices. Some of these DIPs, where drug-related crime was perceived to be lower, were labelled "Non-Intensive". Non-Intensive areas were different in one way - local police stations would not drug test. However, a Required Assessment and a Restrictions on Bail condition could still be given to people from these areas.

Prolific and Other Priority Offenders Scheme and DIP

In 2004, the Prolific and Other Priority Offenders (PPO) Scheme was set up. A crime reduction initiative, it aims to identify a hard-core of individuals considered responsible for large amounts of crime, and manage them through either rehabilitation or conviction. There are currently 10,000 offenders in the UK who are involved in the PPO scheme, a significant proportion of whom have drug dependency issues. The Home Office encourages DIPs and PPO schemes to work closely together in such cases to ensure effective case management of offenders[7].


Release, a UK charity which advises professionals and the public on criminal justice and drugs matters, strongly opposed the Test-on-Arrest and Required Assessment measures brought in by the Drugs Act 2005. They stated that mandatory drug testing was possibly in contravention with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998, and that the possibility of false positives could lead to mandatory assessments for non-drug using Detained Prisoners. They also queried the Required Assessment process, calling into question the ethics and efficacy of coerced addiction treatment, and highlighting the possible re-direction of resources away from the voluntary treatment sector[8].

See also


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