Committee of Public Accounts


Press Notice No. 9 of Session 2004-05, dated 10 March 2005


NINTH REPORT: THE DRUG TREATMENT AND TESTING ORDER: EARLY LESSONS (HC 403)

Mr Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said today:

"Greater efforts should be made to ensure offenders complete Drug Treatment Testing Orders.

In 2003 only 1 in 4 Orders were completed. Evidence shows that reconviction rates amongst those failing to finish the Order is 91%. 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.

More must be done to prevent the huge inconsistencies in delivery. Completion rates vary widely across the country; from 8% in Kent to 71% in Dorset.

DTTOs should also not be used as a means of avoiding custodial sentences. Better use of the time between arrest and sentence would ensure the offender has a real intention of engaging in treatment and doesn't just want to collect a 'get out of jail free' card."

DTTOs should also not be used as a means of avoiding custodial sentences. Better use of the time between arrest and sentence would ensure the offender has a real intention of engaging in treatment and doesn't just want to collect a 'get out of jail free' card.

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 9th Report of this Session, which examined the impact of the Drug Treatment and Testing Order, improving the delivery of the Order, and reducing the risk of relapse.

The Drug Treatment and Testing Order (The Order) is a community sentence intended for drug misusers who have a significant record of drug-related offending, and it has been used as an alternative to custody. The Order requires offenders to submit to regular drug testing, to attend intensive treatment and rehabilitation programmes and to have their progress reviewed regularly by the courts. Offenders on the Order are supervised by local probation teams. The main requirements of the Order are set by the Home Office.

The Committee found that the main focus for probation teams to date has been the delivery of annual targets for the number of commencements on the Order. But the main challenge faced by probation teams is keeping often chaotic drug misusers on an intensive and highly structured programme long enough to achieve sustained reductions in drug misuse and offending behaviour. Only 28% of around 5,700 Orders terminated in 2003 had reached full term or had been revoked early for good progress, with significant variations in completion rates around the country. The National Offender Management Service report, however, that offending is reduced for each week an offender is kept on the programme.

Local probation and drug treatment teams have adopted a wide variety of different approaches to delivering the main requirements of the Order ranging from how they select offenders for the Order, the content and quality of rehabilitation programmes provided, such as education programmes, and their approach to enforcement. The methods adopted locally are likely to have an important influence on how effective programmes are in keeping offenders on the programme, but better data is needed to pinpoint which methods work best. Some areas have had difficulty fulfilling the main requirements of the Order. Only 44% of cases monitored by probation areas between July and October 2003 showed evidence that the minimum of 15 contact hours per week during the first 13 weeks of the Order had been arranged.

Some offenders have commented on the difficulty of breaking a drug habit if they continue to live in accommodation shared with other drug misusers, and some have reported difficulties in obtaining benefits such as Job Seekers' Allowance whilst on the Order. Other offenders, who have made progress on the Order, have reported concern about the level of support available when they come off the Order.


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