Letters: Drug testing

Sir: As the senior probation officer responsible for the operation of the Drug Treatment and Testing Order (DTTO) pilot project in Liverpool, I am amazed at the article "Straw sex and drugs policies ignored" (2 April).

I am aware that each of the pilot schemes is different, but in Liverpool of the 28 individuals assessed for the DTTO who have been sentenced to date, 16 have been placed on the order, five received immediate prison sentences due to the seriousness of their offences, two refused to take part and the remainder were assessed as unsuitable for the DTTO but proposed for other community sentences.

The DTTO is demanding; it is not suitable for every drug user and some individuals fail to comply with the order. In both respects it is similar to other community penalties currently operated by the Probation Service. I cannot answer for the projects in the other two areas. However, I can assure readers that in Liverpool, urine samples are not produced in "degrading" conditions and there is no question of female staff observing male offenders.

Merseyside Probation Service is working with a range of statutory and voluntary agencies, to establish for each offender placed on the order an individualised "treatment plan". The DTTO pilot projects are not perfect; we are still learning a great deal. There is no easy solution to the entrenched pattern of drug use, offending and prison. The Drug Treatment and Testing Order is a brave attempt to break this cycle.


Merseyside Probation Service