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Criminal Justice Committee

Drugs Misuse Roundtable Follow-up evidence - Police Scotland

Letter from Police Scotland to the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee, 12 November 2021

Dear Convener

I write to you in response to your correspondence dated 28th October 2021 regarding evidence provided to the Criminal Justice Committee on Drug Harm Reduction by Superintendent Conway on the 27th October 2021. In your correspondence you sought clarity and further written evidence regarding 3 specific issues;

  • The number of referrals made by Police Scotland to service providers for those using drugs and for multiple complex needs. It would be helpful if data could be provided for the last 3 years.
  • The resources available to implement the use of serious crime prevention orders, and whether this is done within a standalone department with a dedicated resource or is part of wider policing.
  • Confirmation of whether Police Scotland is to publish the evaluation of the Naloxone pilot.

A detailed response to each element of your request is detailed below;

The number of referrals made by Police Scotland to service providers for those using drugs and for multiple complex needs. It would be helpful if data could be provided for the last 3 years.

Police Scotland have two means of referral for support for those who have wellbeing concerns; the Interim Vulnerable Person’s Database (iVPD) and the Criminal Justice Services Division, Arrest Referral for persons within police custody. Both methods aim to deliver prevention and early intervention approaches to reduce vulnerability and support people considered vulnerable.

The Interim Vulnerable Person’s Database (iVPD) allows for the capture and assessment of risk identified across vulnerable groups and the sharing of information via partner agencies and third sector advocacy support services to connect vulnerable people with those who can help them. The system has not been designed as a statistical tool and therefore we are limited in the data and the application that can be derived from it.

Appended are tables depicting 3 sets of information that indicate the numbers of referrals made with a ‘drugs’ marker by gender, age and referral type. It is important to note that Police Scotland do not have a category for ‘Complex Need’. It is our intention to also provide the Committee with information relating to the total number of referrals made over the past 3 years which might further demonstrate the scale of reports relating to wellbeing and vulnerability made by our Police Officers.

Our database encourages use of markers that might give more background to an officer’s report, one of these relates to “drugs”. Currently, the application of the Drug Consumption Marker for an Adult Concern nominal could be for a number of reasons. It could be illicit drugs, legal highs or prescription drugs (depending on the circumstances) and it could be down to one off usage, recreational use or addiction. The use of the drugs may or may not be a contributory factor to their vulnerability and may only be an additional piece of information as opposed to a consideration when assessing risk and the vulnerability of the individual.

Similarly our Adult Concern and Child Concern categories will include a myriad of concerns which are only defined through the narrative of the officer’s report and cannot be further categorised. The only exception to this are those we feel meet the criteria for Adult and Child protection, which we use to help direct Social Work colleagues to prioritise and consider under specific legislation. Data to support this will be provided to the committee at the earliest opportunity.

Although we cannot provide specific detail for the Committee regarding the types of concern, we are aware through discussions with officers across Scotland that many of those for whom reports are made have multiple wellbeing concerns that may be related to their physical or mental health, issues with addiction or issues related to poverty and crisis.

Police Scotland are not a commissioning agent for third party services therefore our main referral route for cases that fall under the wellbeing category are the local Social Work teams. We are aware that across the country there are differences and challenges regarding the commissioning of services or onward referral, therefore we have provided a response to the National Care Service consultation to highlight this need as an area of concern.

Within Criminal Justice Services Division Arrest Referrals are recorded on the National Custody System that was standardised in April, 2019, since then the number of individuals accepting referral has been 2287. Referrals made prior to April 2019 were made under local arrangements and no accurate figures are available. Our officers work alongside NHS staff working within Custody Healthcare who independently also refer prisoners that require alcohol and/or drug support to local Health Boards, who should be able to provide details on the number they have referred.

There is disparity of services available across Scotland. The custody centre location will dictate the services available depending on what third sector or statutory support is available locally. The lack of standardised support for someone with complex needs is challenging with some areas unable to provide direct support or an appropriate referral as their needs do not meet a specific criteria set. As an example, the criteria for a service might stipulate a specific addiction type that is aimed at a specific age range and/or gender group and/or location (the offender may live in an area outwith that of the custody centre) before they can be referred.

This situation has reduced the opportunities for referral.

Criminal Justice Service Division is making every effort to improve the arrest referral system through its Harm Reduction Strategy. The introduction of Custody, Support and Intervention Champions within each custody centre and a dedicated Intervention Sergeant has improved the referral process however they are still limited to what is available in each Local Authority area with regards to referral pathways.

The resources available to implement the use of serious crime prevention orders, and whether this is done within a standalone department with a dedicated resource or is part of wider policing.

A Serious Crime Prevention Order is a civil court order that is used to protect the public by preventing, restricting or disrupting a person or company/organisations involvement in serious crime. There are currently 71 Serious Crime Prevention Orders (SCP within the scope of Police Scotland’s responsibility:

  • 69 are “on conviction” orders obtained by the Police.
  • 1 is an “on conviction” order obtained by a partner agency (HMRC).
  • 1 is a “standalone” order obtained by the Police.

Twenty of these orders are currently “live” in that the subject of the order has been released from prison/out in the community (of note, one subject has recently had their prison licence revoked for breaching their SCPO taking the number of “live” orders that are in the community to 19).

SCPO Subjects are managed by Local Policing Divisions within Police Scotland. They are supported by the National Specialist Crime Division, SCPO Unit and Scottish Crime Campus, which coordinates the application for new Orders as well as the process for SCPO Subjects entering the community.

Confirmation of whether Police Scotland is to publish the evaluation of the Naloxone pilot.

The Naloxone Test of Change (ToC) programme has now reached its conclusion and an independent evaluation of the process is underway, this is expected to be completed in early 2022. The Public Health Surveillance Sub-Group of the Drugs Death Task Force (DDTF) and the Scottish Institute of Policing Research are responsible for the evaluation process, which will provide appropriate, independent rigor and scrutiny.

The evaluation is focussed on the implementation and processes of the Test of Change programme to allow elements of learning and best practice to be identified and to inform any future national implementation of Naloxone carriage/administration within Police Scotland.

The evaluation will include responses from those within the test areas which include, police officers involved in the Naloxone pilot, people with lived experience of opioid use (LEOU) family members of people with LEOU, staff with experience of supporting people with LEOU and strategic senior stakeholders such as those within Public Health Scotland and Alcohol and Drug Partnerships.

The evaluation team have confirmed the final report will be provided to the Drug Deaths Task Force and Police Scotland and, pending permissions, to other stakeholders who were involved in the research. Anonymised data from the project will also be used to produce academic papers, conference presentations and presentations to policy makers.

I trust this response clarifies the Police Scotland position on these matters and I look forward to updating the Criminal Justice Committee further as we continue to work in this area.

Yours sincerely

Gary Ritchie
Assistant Chief Constable

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Annexe A


Related correspondences

Criminal Justice Committee

The Role of the Scottish Criminal Justice Sector in Tackling the Misuse of Drugs

Letter from the Scottish Police Federation to the Criminal Justice Committee, 4 November 2021

Criminal Justice Committee

Roundtable on Misuse of Drugs Follow-up Evidence

Letter from Anthony McGeehan, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to the Convener, Criminal Justice Committee, 9 November 2021