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Drug and alcohol offenders to be:- 'locked up' by North West Court under Gov's new plan unless they overcome addiction

THE Government has launched what they deem to be:- "ground breaking new Courts" in the North West and North East to direct drug and alcohol abusers to tackle their addiction head on or face jail time in a bid to crack down on crime.

The new Problem-Solving Courts (PSCs) are there to combat drug and alcohol fuelled crime, and under unique orders, offenders will see the same judge at least once a month and be offered:- "intense" support including treatment, housing and educational support in a bid to rid themselves of their addiction and prevent crime, but they'll face imprisonment if they fail.

The £8.25- million pilot will see the 1st 2 courts at Liverpool and Teeside Crown Courts, where the Government has already declared both areas as having:- "high levels of need" when it comes to tackling drug crime.

In 2020, the North East had the highest rate of deaths relating to drug misuse across England and Wales (104.6 deaths per million people) compared to the national rate of 52.3 deaths per million people, while the rate of deaths relating to drug misuse in the North West is 74.2 per million. 

A third PSC will be launched at Birmingham Magistrates' Court to focus on female offenders with complex needs, including substance misuse. 2 courts are still under consideration.

Addicts will be incentivised with relaxed conditions to recognise good progress, but will be penalised with increased drug testing and court reviews when behaviour fails to meet:- "agreed" standards.

Judges and magistrates in the PSCs can also jail offenders for failure to stick to their sentence by imprisoning them for up to 28 days, up to a maximum of 3 times.

Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Dominic Raab MP said:- "Getting criminal offenders sustainably off drugs is the gateway to getting them into work and a law abiding future. Only once offenders are drug free can they grasp the opportunities of skills training and employment and turn their backs on crime for good. So these innovative courts will help us grasp the nettle of drug addiction, and make our streets safer."

But drug and alcohol treatment experts at the UK Addiction Treatment Group - which runs support centres in the North West- are furious at the Government's launch, suggesting it only shows their naivety and complete lack of understanding of addiction.

Nuno Albuquerque, Consultant Treatment Lead for the UKAT Group comments;- "The launch of these Problem-Solving Courts is infuriating and a blatant display of criminalising those suffering with addiction. What the Government clearly doesn't understand is that addiction is merely a symptom; a plaster trying to cover an open wound. The addiction isn't the problem, something has gone very wrong for the individual and that must be addressed properly, empathetically and professionally for them to subsequently be able to stop using substances to numb their pain and problems. But what we have here instead is our Government pointing their finger at those who are suffering with addiction and blaming them, even threatening to throw them behind bars for something that is out of their control. We should not be shaming addicts. These are vulnerable people who are likely at their rock bottom. Threatening them with jail time if they can't quickly stop their:- 5, 10, 15, 20 year long addiction is utterly ludicrous."

More people die every year as a result of drug misuse than from all knife crime and road traffic accidents combined. The total cost to society and taxpayers in today's prices is nearly £22 billion.

Bill Esterson MP joins calls for action to tackle arthritis waiting lists

BILL Esterson MP is calling for more to be done to help people suffering with osteoarthritis and waiting for joint replacement surgery.

Mr Esterson, the MP for Sefton Central, said waiting lists had increased significantly since the Covid Pandemic. Mr Esterson has written to the NHS Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care Board to ask how residents in Sefton Central with the condition are being supported.

Mr Esterson said:- "Joint replacement surgeries can ease pain, improve mobility, and restore independence. They are operations that can radically change lives. Waiting times for these surgeries were increasing prior to the Pandemic, but the impact of Covid19 had a devastating effect on them. . As people have been waiting, they have told us their physical and mental health is suffering, their pain is worsening, and their independence is rapidly decreasing."

According to the campaign group Versus Arthritis, currently in England:- 750,334 are waiting for trauma and orthopaedic treatment, including joint replacement surgery.

Mr Esterson wrote to the new Sefton Integrated Care System to ask

How are joint replacement surgery waiting times being tackled as part of your service's local elective recovery planning, and how are people being supported as they wait?

If offering people surgery outside of their local area, how is your service providing support to ensure this can be accessed via transport assistance, financial support, provision for carers?

How is your service ensuring that pre-operative, operative and post operative care are remaining seamlessly integrated, regardless of where these services are provided?

Mr Esterson said:- "Many thousands of people in England are waiting in severe and worsening pain for an operation, such as a hip and knee replacement, that can help fully restore mobility and independence. It is right for us as representatives of our communities to ask these questions and demand the very best healthcare for our constituents."

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