Funded by the Government’s Evaluation Accelerator Fund, the study is being led by the College of Policing and the University of Kent.
The PDD schemes, which are currently in operation in Thames Valley, Durham and the West Midlands, allow police to avoid arresting and charging adults who are caught in possession of small amounts of drugs. Instead, they are assessed, then referred to education, treatment or support if required with an ‘out of court disposal’ – which does not create a criminal record.
In other countries, such schemes have been shown to reduce re-offending and to save police time and money. They also have the potential to improve health and reduce ethnic disparities in law enforcement.
Loughborough’s involvement in the project is being led by Dr Mark Monaghan, from the University’s Department of Criminology, Sociology and Social Policy. He is part of a consortium of academic, policing, health and service user partners who will evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the PDD schemes already operating.
The researchers will use data collected by the police, NHS, and drug treatment services to assess the impacts of diversion on crime, hospitalisations and engagement with drug treatment. The outcomes for people eligible for diversion in Thames Valley, Durham and the West Midlands will be compared to the outcomes of drug-involved suspects in matched areas which do not yet use PDD schemes.
Interviews and focus groups will also be carried out with people who work with PDD schemes, including police officers, drug treatment providers, service users and their families, to help analyse how the schemes work in practice. How equitable the effects of PDD are (e.g. by ethnicity and gender) will also be examined.
Speaking about the project, Dr Monaghan said: “This is a timely project that will add to the evidence-base for alternatives to criminalisation for drug possession. It should enable us to do research that has a direct impact on people’s lives as well as on policy and practice.”
The project partners include the Universities of Sheffield and York, the Open University, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, the Office of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Thames Valley Police, Durham Police and the charity Use Voice.
The research project will conclude in March 2025. Its findings will be published in a range of reports, practical guidance documents and academic articles.