Almost 100,000 drug tests on arrest carried out in last two years

Nearly 100,000 drug tests on arrest have been carried out by police forces in England and Wales since March 2022, the Home Office has announced. The expansion of testing on arrest forms part of the government’s ten-year drug strategy, published in December 2021, with the number of tests increasing every quarter for the last two years.

Suspects are tested when their behaviour is ‘believed to have been driven by their drug abuse’, the Home Office states. Eighty seven per cent of positive drug tests were for cocaine, 31 per cent for both cocaine and opiates, and 4 per cent for opiates alone.

Fifty six per cent of people arrested for crimes including robbery, car theft and burglary tested positive for opiates, cocaine or both, with more than 90 per cent of positive tests resulting in an assessment by a qualified drug worker to ‘ensure those for whom treatment or other support would be beneficial are referred to an appropriate service’. Almost half of those assessed were subsequently referred, the Home Office says.

Crime minister Chris Philp: Keen to expand police powers on drug testing on arrest

Drug testing on arrest was not used consistently across police forces until government funding was made available in 2021-22, with less than half of forces previously reporting their results to the Home Office. The government’s criminal justice bill, if passed, would expand both the range of drugs forces can test for – including ketamine and cannabis – and the offences that could trigger a test, to include violence and football-related offences.

‘The relationship between drug abuse and criminal behaviour is clear which is why we’ve sought to expand the police use of drug testing on arrest,’ said crime minister Chris Philp. ‘Suspects who are caught not only face justice, but are given the chance to turn their lives around by tackling one the root causes of their criminal behaviour and this is why we are pushing through the criminal justice bill to expand these powers.’

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