By Claire West

Police forces will now have greater freedom and flexibility to drug test people on arrest, Minister for Crime Prevention James Brokenshire announced today.

Until now, police forces have had to apply for authorisation from the Home Office to 'test on arrest' at specific police stations. Once this authorisation was granted the station would test at least 95 per cent of those arrested for certain 'trigger offences' such as burglary.

From today Chief Constables will just need to inform the Home Office that they are using this power. Dropping this target, and simplifying the process, will remove a considerable bureaucratic burden from forces and local partners.

Identifying drug-using offenders can significantly cut drug-related crime as it helps police and other agencies get offenders, whose crimes are driven by their drug dependence, into treatment to support their recovery.

Minister for Crime Prevention James Brokenshire said:

"We are determined to free the police from needless bureaucracy and pointless national targets. By scrapping the requirement for police to apply for authorisation to test on arrest, we are giving officers the flexibility to test where it is appropriate.

"Drug testing on arrest is a vital part of the work police and local partners do to reduce drug related crime locally. We must give those who know what works in their neighbourhood the power to develop plans which meet local needs."

All 43 police forces in England and Wales have the power to drug test people who have been arrested if officers have reasonable grounds for suspecting they have used specified Class A drugs (heroin or cocaine).

If the person tests positive for a Class A drug they are legally required to attend an assessment with a trained drug worker who will make a series of recommendations to support their recovery These recommendations, which could include attending treatment, can be taken into account by the courts when setting bail conditions or sentencing.

At present drug testing is operational in 23 police force areas and some 160 custody suites, with around 230,000 tests conducted every year for specified Class A substances - heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine.