Psychologists will help assess whether defendants with drink and drugs problems should be spared jail

Justice Secretary David Gauke will today announce a pioneering plan to try and “divert” offenders from “ineffective short-term sentences”.

Under the proposals, vulnerable offenders with mental health, alcohol or substance abuse issues could avoid a spell behind bars and instead be sent to community treatment centres.

The move is being trialled in five pilot areas including Northampton and Birmingham with psychologists present in court to assess offenders – along with justice and health officials.

In a statement last night Mr Gauke said: “I want to improve confidence in community sentences, and early evidence from these sites has shown that treatment requirements can have a significant impact in improving rehabilitation and addressing the underlying causes of offending.

“We need to do more to raise awareness and increase confidence in treatment requirements and I look forward to exploring how these sites progress.”

The Ministry of Justice claims there is a dramatic reduction of up to 59 per cent in the re-offending rate by lags who undergo treatment for drink and drugs.

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