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Youth Drug Diversion Scheme to be rolled out forcewide

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Thames Valley Police and partners are rolling out a drug diversion scheme for under 18’s forcewide as part of work being delivered by the Violence Reduction Unit.

The scheme aims to reduce the harm caused by the use of drugs and drug related offences. It gives those young people found in possession of small quantities of illegal drugs the opportunity to take part in a tailored diversion to address their drug use as an alternative to facing prosecution.

This specialised support aims to prevent the cycle of reoffending and long term demand upon police and judicial services.

If a young person has engaged with the scheme and is found to be in possession of a small quantity of drugs again, they will still have the opportunity to take part in the diversion - allowing for the reason for the possession to be explored and further support provided.

If a young person is found to be in possession of larger quantities of drugs, are suspected of supplying illegal substances, or does not engage in the diversion support offered, they will face arrest and prosecution.

The youth drug diversion scheme is being rolled out across all Thames Valley Local Policing Areas in co-ordination with the Youth Offending Teams following the success of two pilots. In November 2018, the force launched a pilot scheme in West Berkshire. Then, in January this year, a second pilot scheme was launched in Windsor and Maidenhead.

Chief Inspector Jason Kew, Violence Reduction Unit, Drugs, Exploitation and Harm Reduction Lead, said: “This is a great step forward for the Drug Diversion Scheme.

“By offering young people an opportunity to learn about the dangers of drugs as well as providing them with the support they need to make a positive change in their lives they don’t have to end up with a criminal record.

“As a consequence, we hope this will then contribute to a reduction in drug use and the drugs market.

“Further this also frees up valuable time for frontline officers as the person stopped will not need to attend custody. Therefore, allowing officers more time to tackle serious and organised crime in our communities.”

Matthew Barber, Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, said: “Our Violence Reduction Unit is seeking to make long term reductions in drug use and serious violence.

“This drugs diversion scheme is designed to tackle the root causes of drug use amongst young people in order to prevent them reoffending.

“Residents across Thames Valley often raise concerns about drug use in their communities.

“This new approach will enable the police to better respond to the concerns of the public and tackle this problem.”