The introduction of drug Arrest Referral schemes in London: A partnership between drug services and the police

Gillian Hunter, Tim McSweeney, Paul J. Turnbull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The significant investment into developing criminal justice interventions to link drug-using offenders with drug treatment interventions, most specifically in the UK, Australia and North America, has instigated debate about the emphasis given to crime reduction vis-à-vis health and harm reduction for drug users. Key to this debate is the extent to which health and criminal justice agencies are equal partners and collaborate effectively in delivering drug interventions. Arrest Referral (AR) schemes, located in police stations, provide an opportunity for advice, information, assessment and referral to drug services at point of arrest. These form a first stage of intervention which can go on to include court enforced community drug treatment orders and prison detoxification programmes. As part of an evaluation of AR schemes in London that took place between 2000 and 2002, 84 police officers and 67 drugs workers involved in the schemes were interviewed about their working relationships and views on AR. Findings highlight practical difficulties of delivering a drug service in a police custody environment, including how to establish the 'credibility' of the service among drug-using arrestees. Others issues raised included differences between the police and drugs workers in their perceptions of the aims of AR and the fear among drug workers that their role in promoting harm reduction was being ignored by the funders of the schemes. More positively, data showed greater collaboration and improved working relationships over time. The implications of these findings are discussed in the context of the introduction of Criminal Justice Integrated Teams (CJIT) in the UK, which aim to integrate criminal justice and community drug treatment interventions and promote inter-agency case management thus increasing the need for partnerships between health and criminal justice agencies at all points of the Criminal Justice System (CJS).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-352
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Issue number5
Early online date19 Aug 2005
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2005


  • Arrest referral
  • Criminal Justice System
  • Drugs interventions
  • Partnerships
  • Police


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