To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to the Government report entitled An evaluation of the Government’s Drug Strategy 2010, which reported a lack of robust evidence as to whether capture and punishment serves as a deterrent for drug use, for what reason drug users continue to be criminalised given that lack of robust evidence.
26 May 2021
No evaluation framework has been developed to assess the 2017 Drug Strategy. However, a number of initiatives that have been implemented under the 2017 Drug Strategy have been subject to assessment or evaluation, including;
- The UK Government appointed Dr Ed Day as the Government’s Recovery Champion to provide national leadership around key aspects of the drug recovery agenda and advise the Government on where improvements can be made. His first annual report was published in January 2021, which includes an assessment of the current system. It can be found here; UK government Drug Recovery Champion annual report - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- In 2019, Public Health England and the Home Office published a report on a deep dive to understand the rise in crack cocaine use in six areas of England. PHE publish investigative report on increasing crack use - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs continues to carry out in-depth reviews on issues relating to drugs and drug harms. Its website includes reviews on the ageing cohort of drug users, on custody to community transitions and on homelessness and drug use for example.
- Other projects within the 2017 Drug Strategy, such as the Holme House ‘drug recovery prison’ pilot and the Jobcentre Plus Individual Placement and Support (IPS) trial to support those with substance use dependence back into employment, are subject to ongoing evaluation.
On the question of punishment for people who break the law, including buying illicit drugs, the Government is unashamedly clear that drug use is unacceptable and users must face the consequences. Prison is one possible punishment, however the police have a range of powers at their disposal to deal with drug-related offences in a way that is proportionate to the circumstances of the offender and the public interest. They also have discretion to engage a first-time young offender with local services to assess their needs including the risk of harm. How police choose to pursue investigations is an operational decision for chief constables, but we are clear that we expect them to enforce the law.
Addressing drugs and drug harms is not something that law enforcement alone can do and we must ensure that we intervene early and effectively to reduce the demand for drugs. We therefore take a balanced approach which brings together police, health, community and global partners to tackle the illicit drug trade, protect the most vulnerable and help those with a drug dependency to recover and turn their lives around.
Violence and exploitation is an inherent part of the business model of organised criminal gangs who supply drugs, and it is important that we continue to address this threat. Law enforcement partners are therefore cracking down on criminals who supply drugs, causing misery to families and communities. Violence Reduction Units and police forces work with local partners to understand and tackle the drivers of violence in their area. This year we have provided VRUs with £35.5m to continue this work, alongside an additional £30m of ‘Grip’ funding to the police force areas most affected by violent crime.
We know there is more to do to tackle drugs and the harms they cause, which is why the Home Office commissioned a major independent review, led by Dame Carol Black, to examine these issues. Part one of the Review was published in February 2020 and provided a detailed analysis of drug supply and demand. In July last year, DHSC announced the second part of the review led by Dame Carol to look at prevention, treatment and recovery which will be published later this year.
The Government continues to go further than the Drug Strategy 2017. In January, the Government announced a £148 million new investment to cut crime and protect people from the scourge of illegal drugs including;
- £80 million for drug treatment services right across England – representing the largest increase in drug treatment funding for 15 years.
- £28 million for Project ADDER – a new intensive approach to tackling drug misuse, which combines targeted and tougher policing with diversionary schemes and enhanced treatment and recovery services.
- £40 million to tackle drugs supply and county lines and surge our activity against these ruthless gangs This will allow us to expand and build upon the successful results of our £25 million county lines programme which since November 2019 has seen more than 3,400 people arrested, more than 550 lines closed, drugs with a street value of £9 million and £1.5 million cash seized, and more than 770 vulnerable people safeguarded.
Together the funding represents a comprehensive drive by the Government to build back safer from the pandemic by helping people break free from the scourge of drug use and cutting drug-fuelled crime and violence.