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Drug Courts

3.7 p.m.

Lord Adebowale asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, the experience of drug test and treatment order review courts shows that there is much to be gained by allowing sentencers to play a more active part in the review and monitoring of drug treatment and testing orders. To be most effective, we need to ensure that there is continuity through the stages of the court process, that there is consistency in practice, and that sentencers have the opportunity, training and guidance to build experience. We are currently considering how we can build on best court practice and, subject to the outcome of any pilots, I hope that we will be able to give courts a much greater role to play in the rehabilitation of drug misusing offenders.

Lord Adebowale: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, for that reply. I also declare an interest as chief executive of Turning Point social care, an organisation with some experience in the provision of drug courts in places such as Wakefield. I personally have long been an advocate of the drug court model. I believe that it offers a considerable advantage over traditional court hearings in terms of its status as well as more direct benefits by having a panel where specially trained

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magistrates can both understand the complexity of drug use and offer a sensitive and supportive role to offenders over a long period of time.

The drug court pilots in England and Scotland have shown that drug courts are more successful than the traditional court-review approach in retaining people in treatment for longer. Does the noble and learned Lord agree that future growth in that regard would result in considerable savings in the criminal justice system, improved treatment outcomes and wider savings to society more generally? Will he consider expanding drug courts as a means of delivering the drug treatment requirements of the community sentence?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I pay tribute to the work that Turning Point has done in relation to a large number of projects which help to reduce dependency on drugs and thereby reduce crime driven by drugs. I also pay tribute to the work that Turning Point did in the Wakefield and Pontefract courts in the period before drug treatment and training orders were introduced. I agree in principle with what my noble friend says; namely, that the more experience a court has of dealing with drug offenders, the better able it is to review the progress of drug treatment and training orders and to pass appropriate sentences. We need to consider how we can involve courts more in the process of ensuring that the sentences they pass are effective in dealing with drug-fuelled offending.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, given the prevalence of drug-taking in prison, which reinforces the link between drugs and crime, and the fact that the updated strategy refers to expanding treatment provision in prisons, will the Minister explain what that commitment really means in terms of how many additional treatment places and what additional resources will be made available and so on?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, it means first and foremost providing more treatment than is currently available. The current amount of money available for drug treatment is somewhere in the region of £450 million per annum. By the year ending 2005, we envisage having £573 million available to provide drug treatment. That will include drug treatment available for those in custody, which is a very important area on which to focus. However, we should emphasise that drug treatment in prison is of most help if support is given after the offender leaves prison. So many people immediately fall into their old ways when they leave prison unless support is given at that point. That is what we need to focus on as well as providing proper treatment.

Lord McNally: My Lords, does the Minister agree that although treatment, counselling and help are of the greatest assistance in the war against drugs, we shall win that war only if we hit hard the drug barons and organised drug crime at its source? How are the

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Government's initiatives to obtain greater co-operation from financial authorities on issues such as the laundering of drugs money and the movement of drug profits succeeding?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I agree with the proposition advanced by the noble Lord, Lord McNally. It is not just a matter of seeking to help people who are dependent on drugs to prevent them returning to crime, but also of hitting drug barons and the people who are making huge amounts of money out of crime. We have dealt with money laundering to some extent in previous legislation. We have also provided a very effective legal framework in the Proceeds of Crime Act to ensure that those who make money out of drugs, whether through money laundering or in other ways, are hit effectively through the judicial system. We are putting in train legal measures to ensure that that will be the case.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that it is rather ludicrous that it is quicker to get treatment for drug abuse in prison than it is in the civilian world? For example, people in Birmingham have complained of having to wait for up to a year for drug treatment. Will my noble and learned friend have a word with his noble friend at the Department of Health to see what can be done about that?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Yes, my Lords. I am very aware of the fact that in certain parts of the country it takes too long to access drug treatment. That is a matter that the Home Office and the Department of Health are working on together. As regards the point about people in prison accessing drug treatment earlier than those outside prison, difficult judgments have to be made, but society as a whole is helped if the people who commit drug-fuelled crime have their need for drugs reduced.

Lord Taverne: My Lords, given the problems associated with drug treatment in prison when a rehabilitation course comes to an end, will the Government give serious consideration to converting some prisons wholly to the task of rehabilitation to get people off drugs?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, over the past few years the focus in prison as regards seeking to rehabilitate people from both drug and alcohol dependency has changed. I do not think that it would be appropriate to focus a whole prison on rehabilitation. We need to focus on steps to detoxify prisoners who are dependent on drugs or alcohol. The Prison Service is now focusing effectively on that.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, in light of the updating of the drug strategy, what view are the

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Government taking of the growing use of gat in this country which has significant health implications quite apart from the drug aspect?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, perhaps I may write to the noble Baroness on that matter.

Lord Rea: My Lords, can my noble and learned friend give us some indication of the success of drug treatment and training orders? How long have they been in operation? Can he say how effective they are in preventing reoffending and keeping people drug free as compared with a group of people who receive standard sentences without DTTOs?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, pilot DTTOs began in March 1999 and ended in March 2000. They were rolled out nationally in October 2000. We have not yet had time to work out how effective they have been as one needs to look at reconviction rates over a longer period than the two years in which they have been in operation. The number of DTTOs made by the courts has now reached approximately 6,000 a year. The courts consider them attractive disposals in relation to drug-fuelled offenders. Shortly we shall publish material to indicate how effective they have been.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord agree that the overcrowding of the prison system and the subsequent frequent movements of prisoners between one prison and another is having a deleterious effect on the delivery of drug treatment in prison?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, one should put the matter in context. The focus of prisons has changed over the past few years from being simply places where there is no education, no treatment and no rehabilitation at all to places where conditions have improved. People are focusing on seeking measures to reduce reoffending. Things are very much better than they were in, for example, 1992. Of course, the fact that there are more people in prison than previously makes the task harder but we should not lose sight of the progress that has been made.

Teaching Standards

3.17 p.m.

Lord Quirk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To what extent they are satisfied with the progress of teaching, learning and administration noted in the annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools published on 5th February.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, the annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England confirms that standards of pupil attainment have continued to rise and that that improvement is the

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result of better teaching. Inspectors found more good teaching and fewer poor lessons than ever before. Although there is much to celebrate, we recognise that we must build on the significant gains made in primary schools and secure similar improvements in secondary and further education.

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