Fury at drug treatment order failures

ONLY one in four criminals spared jail to undergo drug treatment in Suffolk and Essex actually complete the course, new figures have revealed.Drug Treatment and Testing Orders (DTTOs) have repeatedly been lauded by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

ONLY one in four criminals spared jail to undergo drug treatment in Suffolk and Essex actually complete the course, new figures have revealed.

Drug Treatment and Testing Orders (DTTOs) have repeatedly been lauded by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

But about 75% of the 167 orders dealt with in a 12-month period across Suffolk and Essex went uncompleted, according to the National Probation Directorate.

One of the region's MPs described the figures as a "disgrace" and said the Government's policies on drug-related crime needed toughening up.


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Figures debated by cross-party backbench MPs on the Public Accounts Committee also revealed that nine out of 10 criminals who do not see their DTTOs through go on to re-offend. The statistics, which were the latest available, relate to 2003.

There were 76 DTTOs terminated in Suffolk in that period, of which just 19 – 25% – were successful, by being completed or stopped early because of good progress.

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In Essex, only 24 of the 91 orders issued – 26% – were completed. Nationally, 72% of the 5,700 DTTOs made by courts were unsuccessful.

David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, claimed the figures showed the Government was not taking a tough line on drug-related crime.

"It's not good for offenders not to complete the course, and it's not good for law and order," he said.

"We need drug rehabilitation programmes and if offenders throw that support and assistance back in the face of the criminal justice system, they should be sent to jail.

"That deterrent is not being tried by Mr Blair's law and order policies and it is a disgrace. These are poor figures and the Government's policy is one big let-down."

Edward Leigh, Conservative MP and chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said: "Greater efforts should be made to ensure offenders complete Drug Treatment Testing Orders.

"If the Home Office is to ensure that offenders do not slip back into the cycle of drugs and crime then these figures must be improved."

Julia Sharp, assistant chief officer of Suffolk Probation, said the latest figures for 2004-5 – to the end of January this year – showed the county was achieving a DTTO completion rate of 36%, above the Government target of 35%. In some areas that figure was higher – in Ipswich it was 54%.

She added new Drug Rehabilitation Requirements (DRRs), being introduced in April as part of the Criminal Justice Act, should improve performance even further.

"Requirements of the DTTO are very stringent and rigid, while the new DRRs are more flexible and allow us to meet the individual needs of offenders," she said.

Martin Narey, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, said: "Drug Treatment and Testing Orders are a demanding and intensive community sentence targeted at serious and persistent drug misusing offenders who commit a high volume of crime to fund their habit.

"As the PAC report acknowledges and independent research verifies, every week someone is on a DTTO programme, their offending is reduced.

"We acknowledge the need to get more offenders though to the end of the DTTO and, since I gave evidence to the PAC, completion rates have improved by nearly 20%."

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