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Thames Valley Police youth drug diversion scheme wins national award

Scheme was piloted in West Berkshire

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886633

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THAMES Valley Police scheme first piloted in West Berkshire with the aim of preventing a cycle of drugs reoffending has won a national award.

The Youth Drug Diversion Scheme aims to reduce the harm caused by the use of drugs and drug-related offences.

It was piloted in West Berkshire in 2018 and a second pilot scheme was launched in Windsor and Maidenhead in January this year.

The scheme gives young people found in possession of small quantities of illegal drugs the opportunity to take part in a tailored diversion to address their drug use as an alternative to facing prosecution.

The force said that this specialised support aims to prevent the cycle of reoffending and long-term demand upon police and judicial services.

The force was announced as the winner of the Policing and Children category at The Howard League for Penal Reform’s annual awards on Tuesday.

The charity’s annual awards recognise projects and organisations that encourage an alternative to prosecution for children and adults to help reduce the risk of re-offending.

Chief Insp Jason Kew, drugs, exploitation and harm reduction lead in the Violence Reduction Unit, said: “I want to recognise the expertise from a wide range of partners involved in the scheme’s evidenced design – this is fantastic recognition for all of them.

“But importantly, recognising the young people themselves, voluntarily engaging in a programme of drugs education, this award is for each of them.

“We need to change the stigma towards drugs and create a safe environment to self-assess and learn the risks associated with drug use, education is key to positive behaviour change and a reduction in harm.”

A preliminary evaluation into the impact of the drugs diversion scheme in July 2019 showed that between 67 per cent and 84 per cent of those diverted for treatment would have received a sanction.

The evaluation showed that 55 per cent of people did not engage with the drugs service provider after police referral.

Of the people who did engage, 42 per cent completed the recommended actions.

Two people failed to go on to complete the treatment programme, 78 per cent of children completed the entire programme and 76 per cent of referrals were for possession of cannabis.

Two people who completed the course were said to be drug free at the time.

If a young person has engaged with the scheme and is found to be in possession of a small quantity of drugs again, they will still have the opportunity to take part in the diversion – allowing for the reason for the possession to be explored and further support provided.

If a young person is found to be in possession of larger quantities of drugs, is suspected of supplying illegal substances or does not engage in the diversion support offered, they will face arrest and prosecution.

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