Source: Sunday Times (UK) 
Pubdate: Sun, 05 Apr 1998
Author: Nicholas Rufford, Home Affairs Editor


THE Home Office is planning to put electronic tags on drug addicts who have
committed crimes and force them to undergo treatment.

The proposals being considered by Jack Straw, the home secretary, are part
of a government reponse to official figures which reveal that more than
half of those arrested by police are on drugs.

The first national survey of the use of drugs by criminals, to be unveiled
within days, suggests that addicts may be stealing up to 2 billion of
property a year to feed drug habits. In London, 25% of all those arrested
by police who agreed to be tested had traces of heroin in their urine.

"It is showing up that a very large majority of suspects arrested have
drugs of one kind or another in their body. It is the single most serious
cause of local disorder - it is a vicious circle," said Straw.

The study was commissioned from the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge
University, which tested suspects in Cambridge, Manchester, London,
Nottingham and Sunderland over 21 months for narcotics including opiates,
amphetamines, cannabis and cocaine.

It also examined how much money addicts were raising from crime to feed
their habits. Those in Cambridge and London had an average annual drug bill
of 4,000; in Manchester, 7,000.

Mike Hough, professor of social policy at South Bank University, London,
and a former senior Home Office official, said: "This confirms that
drug-related crime is a growing social problem which needs to be tackled

Straw is already drawing up plans for new powers against drug pushers and
abusers, including methods used by American courts to force addicts into
"cold turkey", and electronic tagging of drug offenders while they undergo
treatment. Random drug testing will be carried out by probation officers
and private contractors.

Under new drug treatment and testing orders to go before the Commons this
week as part of the Crime and Disorder Bill, addicts who offend will face
prison unless they agree to constant monitoring. The technique has been
successful in America, where repeat offending has been cut to as low as 5%
of previous levels. Pilot treatment programmes are due to begin in Britain
in the autumn.