Drugs are a scourge on society, devastate lives and fuel violent and acquisitive crime, Boris Johnson has said – in an analysis few would disagree with.
A 10-year strategy, to be unveiled in detail later, has in briefings this morning had a “tough on crime” feel about it – a focus on tackling dealers and gangs, with the prime minister donning a police jacket to attend a drug raid.
But most of the money – more than £530million – will, we are told, be poured into drug treatment in order to try and target 300,000 hardened addicts who commit crimes – the biggest ever investment in this area, the government say.
Charities working on addiction often argue that tough sentencing for lower level drug offences, which the government still wholeheartedly supports, fuels drug problems in prison and society.
The government message is that the distinction between treating drugs as a criminal problem and a health problem is a false one: they believe it can be done at once.
Along with the resources for addiction treatment in society, another £120million will go to treatment in prison and probation services, and £90million for housing and employment support for local authorities, so that offenders with addiction can secure support.
This would be welcomed by those working in the sector, who have sounded the alarm about the impact of years of spending cuts. It’s even more than the £300million announced today for tackling gangs.
Drug deaths in England and Wales reached a grim record high last year – with 4,561 dying from drug poisoning in England and Wales – the highest number since records began in 1993. Drugs offences are also up this year. The aim is to reverse those trends.
Part of the blitz is a headline-grabbing warning for recreational users of class A drugs, often middle-class drug users, who the government say, will be forced onto drug awareness courses with penalties for non-attendance.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse told Sky News that just as people who don’t pay child support can have their passport and driving licence removed, it should be the same for drugs.
Judges will also be given the power to order testing on anyone serving a community sentence for drug-related offences, and those who test positive could be jailed.
Labour point out that both police and local authorities have seen budget cuts since 2010 which have fuelled the problem – with £100million cut from drug treatment programmes.
The government welcomed the recommendations of a major review of drugs policy by doctor and government adviser Dame Carol Black this summer which found addiction services were “on their knees” and costing society nearly £20billion a year, and may adopt some of her recommendations today.
She called for people with addictions not to be stigmatised and have their addiction tackled like any other health problem -…