News in brief

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Lengthy process

The Scottish Government’s plans to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol have been referred to the EU’s Court of Justice in the wake the Scotch Whisky Association’s legal challenge, with a judgement unlikely to be received until well into the second half of 2015. ‘We are confident of our case and look forward to presenting it in the European Court of Justice,’ said health secretary Alex Neil. ‘While it is regrettable that this means we will not be able to implement minimum unit pricing sooner, we will continue our ongoing and productive dialogue with EU officials.’

When the khat’s away

The sidelining of ‘expert views’ in the UK’s ban on khat reveals ‘a troubling approach to law making and one which is all too familiar in drug policy’, says a report from Swansea University. The government announced that khat was to be controlled as a class C drug last year (DDN, July 2013, page 5), despite a recommendation from the ACMD that it not be banned. ‘The UK ban is an unwelcome development that lacks an evidence base and harm mitigating measures,’ says European policy on khat: drug policy lessons not learned. Report at www.swansea.ac.uk

Geneva consumption

A new documentary has been produced by the Independent Consortium on Drug Consumption Rooms (ICDCR) (DDN, October 2013, page 16). The ICDCR visited the Quai 9 facility in Geneva to hear from staff, service users and local residents. ‘Watch it and tell me that DCRs are controversial, not a vote winner and encourage people to inject,’ said ICDCR founder Philippe Bonnet. Watch at http://youtu.be/iMTdwF7T0y8

Firm foundations

A new charity, Foundation for Change, has been launched to continue the work of the NEXT project, which aims to build self-esteem and help people reintegrate into society. Of the people accessing the project between 2008 and 2013, 83 per cent went on to voluntary placements, 65 per cent went on to further education and 39 per cent are now in full-time employment. www.foundationforchange.org.uk

The Ballard of Alcohol Concern

Alcohol Concern has announced that Jackie Ballard will take over as chief executive from next month, having previously headed up RSPCA, Action on Hearing Loss and Womankind Worldwide. She replaces Eric Appleby (DDN, June 2013, page 16), who has been acting in an interim capacity. ‘There is an uneven battle between the global drinks industry, which deploys massive resources to promote its products and influence behaviour, and those, including Alcohol Concern, who are campaigning for a change in drinking culture,’ she said. ‘It makes this a challenging but crucial role and it is one that I am looking forward to taking on.’

Prison problems

Britain’s prisons are ineffective at tackling alcohol-related criminal behaviour, according to a survey commissioned by Addaction. Despite the fact that 70 per cent of prisoners questioned for The Alcohol and Crime Commission report had been drinking when they’d committed their offence, the report found little evidence of either support on release or to help them understand the role of alcohol in their offending. The commiss­ion wants to see improved training for prison staff and for alcohol treatment to form a key part of prison rehabilitation, including ongoing support in the community. ‘A staggering number of prisoners committed a crime while drinking, but unless they’re alcohol dependent the system doesn’t properly recognise them as problem drinkers,’ said Addaction chief executive Simon Antrobus. ‘This means that people are leaving prison without the support they need.’

Project appointment

Sue Clements is the new CEO of Westminster Drug Project (WDP), the organisation has announced. She previously led development of health and justice services at Care UK.

Part of the picture

Five new briefings have been published as part of the Lesbian and Gay Foundation and University of Central Lancashire’s Part of the picture research project into drug and alcohol use in the LGBT community. The documents contain recommendations for service providers, policy makers, commissioners, GPs and researchers. Briefings at www.lgf.org.uk