Nearly 100,000 drug tests carried out to tackle root causes of drug driven crime

The expansion of testing on arrest across England and Wales has seen nearly 100,000 drug tests on suspects whose behaviour was believed to have been driven by their drug abuse

The expansion of testing on arrest by police forces across England and Wales has seen nearly 100,000 drug tests on suspects, whose behaviour was believed to have been driven by their drug abuse, since March 2022. 

Fifty six per cent of suspects who were tested for drugs having been arrested for crimes such as robbery, burglary, and car theft, were found to test positive for either cocaine, opiates, or both. This testing is crucial for preventing further crime, as offenders are diverted towards life changing intervention and treatment services which evidence shows can reduce re-offending.

A sample of tests from police forces shows that over 90% of positive tests resulted in an assessment by a qualified drug support worker to ensure those for whom treatment or other support would be beneficial are referred to an appropriate service. Nearly half of those assessed were deemed to need treatment and then referred.  

Cocaine is the most common drug to be found out of the two types of drug currently tested for, representing 87% of positive drug tests. Thirty one per cent of positive tests were for both cocaine and opiates whilst 4% tested positive for opiates such as heroin.  

The total number of tests carried out by forces across England and Wales has increased every quarter since March 2022. 

Chris Philp Minister for Crime and Policing said: 

"Our plan to tackle drug driven crime is working. 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. 

"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."

The government is committed to expanding the use of drug testing on arrest by police forces and increasing the powers police have to test those they arrest for drugs. 

Through the Criminal Justice Bill the range of drugs that can be tested for will be expanded to include some Class B and Class C drugs, such as cannabis and ketamine, whilst the range of trigger offences which can lead to a suspect being tested for drugs is being broadened to include violent offences, football related offences, and drug driving. 

Prior to Home Office funding being made available in the financial year 2021 to 2022, drug testing on arrest was not used consistently across police forces, with less than half of forces across England and Wales reporting test results to the Home Office and the use of tests within these forces varying significantly. A total of 37 forces accepted funding on drug testing on arrest for the financial year 2023-2024.   

Drug testing on arrest is one element of the government’s 10-year Drug Strategy which has the long-term goal of reducing drug related crime and harm and reducing drug misuse by investing in a whole-system approach.

From: Home Office and The Rt Hon Chris Philp MP