Police given power to test crime suspects for drug use

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The Independent Online

Suspected criminals will be tested for drug use before they have been charged with any offence under new police powers. Ministers said that this would help addicts to break their habit and reduce crime, but critics said it was an invasion of privacy.

From today, anyone arrested on suspicion of acquisitive property crimes, such as mugging or burglary, must be tested for heroin, crack and cocaine. Even if they are not charged, those who test positive must attend classes designed to wean them off drugs. Refusal to co-operate could lead to a three month prison sentence or a fine of up to £2,500.

Initially police in Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire will use the powers, but the Government intends to extend them to all forces in England and Wales.

The powers were also welcomed by police chiefs, but Gareth Crossman of Liberty said: "Drug testing is an invasive procedure which should be [done] only to prove or disprove a specified and serious offence."