Criminals with drug habits will be treated

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The Independent Online
The Government is to press ahead with mandatory treatment and testing orders for drug-addicted criminals, despite a warning from probation officers that they might not work, writes Paul Routledge.

Home Office Minister Joyce Quinn confirmed yesterday that addicts who burgle and steal to feed their habit face com- pulsory treatment, which has a success rate of up to 80 per cent in reducing dependence. Testing and treatment orders are a key element in the Crime and Disorder Bill introduced last month by Home Secretary Jack Straw.

But in a report published yesterday, Graham Smith, the Chief Inspector of Probation, said that in some parts of the country supervision of addicts in the community was often "unsatisfactory". In most areas, plans for supervising offenders was "inadequate".

"Often the plans were too general and unspecific, lacking clear objectives and identification of responsibility for action," the report said. Health and voluntary agencies often did not like mandatory treatment, and could refuse to co-operate. A "substantial number" of offenders did not accept they had a drugs problem, and people who worked with them expressed concern about people being "sentenced to treatment". On the plus side, the report said the majority of offenders - up to 80 per cent in some areas - were judged to be controlling or reducing their drug abuse.

Ms Quinn confirmed that the first Home Office pilot projects to make offenders undergo testing and treatment would start in the New Year. "It is essential that addicts are weaned off their habits if they are to re-integrate in society," she said yesterday. "It is a vicious circle which must be broken. This report shows that effective drug programmes work."

The Government's decision was welcomed by Paul Cava-dino, principal officer of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders. "The Government is right to press ahead with its plans for treatment and testing orders for drug-addicted offenders."