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Public Order Offences

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 23 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether people arrested for public order offences when drunk are routinely tested for illegal drugs; (199996)

(2) what estimate she has made of the number of people arrested for public order offences who were found to have taken cocaine in each of the last five years for which figures are available;

(3) whether people arrested for public order offences are routinely tested for illegal drugs.

Drug testing of offenders for specified Class A drugs in police custody operates as part of the Drug Interventions Programme in some 176 custody suites across England and Wales.

The police currently have the power to request persons aged 18 and over in police detention who have been charged or arrested with a “trigger offence”, to provide a sample for testing for the presence of a specified Class A drug.

The trigger offences are set out in Schedule 6 to the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000. These are the offences which have been shown to have the clearest link with drug misuse, particularly the misuse of heroin and cocaine/crack. The Drugs Intervention Programme regularly reviews the list of trigger offences.

A person arrested or charged with a non trigger offence may be tested if a police officer decides that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that Class A drug use caused or contributed to the offence. The decision to authorise a sample must be referred to a police officer of at least the rank of Inspector.

Public order offences are not among the list of trigger offences which require the police to test the offender for the presence of specified Class A drugs including cocaine although tests can be conducted using Inspector’s Authority.

Between 2003 and February 2008, some 2283 tests were conducted for Public Order offences, 32 per cent. (728) of them tested positive for the presence of cocaine. Of these 481 tested positive for cocaine only and 247 for both cocaine and opiates.