Treat addicts, don’t jail them, says Minister

Isle of Man Prison, Jurby

Isle of Man Prison, Jurby

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Jailing drug addicts is not the best use of court time or resources, the Home Affairs Minister believes.

Juan Watterson said it would be better to treat rather than punish people with drug and alcohol problems.

He said: ‘I am convinced the criminalisation of people for drug and alcohol addiction issues is not the best use of the court’s time or resources.

‘The treatment of addictions and the underlying behaviour can prevent further criminal offences being committed. I recognise this is not an easy road to travel and will take financial commitment and a redirection of resources to a prevention strategy rather than a punishment regime.

‘We are at the start of this work and will need the support of other departments and also acceptance that sometimes treatment rather than punishment will have the greatest benefit for our community.’

Mr Watterson insisted this did not mean any relaxation of the hard line taken on drug trafficking. ‘We are talking about the end of the chain - the users and the victims - rather than those who important drugs,’ he said.

Mr Watterson said significant improvements and cost savings have been achieved since the Criminal Justice Strategy was approved by in December 2012.

The reforms aim at modernising processes, streamlining administration and reducing the number of low-level offences appearing before the courts.

Over the past year there has been a 21 per cent reduction in the amount of public money spent on legal aid.

Overall savings of more than £500,000 have been achieved, with the largest decrease occurring in the court duty advocate scheme. These costs have fallen by 54 per cent, thanks to work undertaken in conjunction with the Isle of Man Law Society.

From April, a planned introduction of endorsable fixed penalty tickets for certain low level/high volume driving offences is expected to save at least £100,000 a year, while new technology at the Attorney General’s chambers will enhance the management of cases and reduce the time taken to get matters to court.

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