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Publication

The Working Group to Consider Alternative Approaches to the Possession of Drugs for Personal Use

Published: 2 August 2019
From: Department of Health

The government established a Working Group to consider alternative approaches to the possession of drugs for personal use in December 2017. The formation of this group was a key action in the National Drugs Strategy, Reducing Harm Supporting Recovery.

The work programme of the group consisted of meetings with experts from other countries, commissioning research on other jurisdictions and undertaking a public consultation. The consultation process included an online questionnaire, focus groups and an open policy debate. The online questionnaire received a response of over 20,000 people.

The Working Group’s report was submitted to Ministers Harris, Flanagan and Byrne at the end of April 2019, along with a minority report from the Chairperson.

The report considered a range of approaches from depenalisation to decriminalisation and identified five policy options. Of these, the report recommends three policy options:

  • Adult Caution: The existing Adult Caution Scheme is a discretionary alternative to prosecution, whereby a person found in possession of drugs for personal use could be given a formal caution by An Garda Síochána, who could also provide the individual with a health and social services information leaflet
  • Multiple Adult Cautions: Subject to the agreement of the DPP, a person could be given the benefit of an Adult Caution by An Garda Síochána more than once
  • Diversion to Health Services: People found in possession of drugs for personal use would be diverted to the Health Service Executive for a health screening and brief intervention with a health professional known as SAOR (Support, Ask and Assess, Offer Assistance and Referral). Where necessary, high-risk drug users will be offered onward referral for treatment or other supports

The government has decided to implement a Health Diversion Approach, having considered the recommendations in the reports.

Under this new system, when a person is found in possession of drugs for personal use the Government has agreed to implement a health diversion approach whereby:

  • on the first occasion, An Garda Síochána will refer them, on a mandatory basis, to the Health Service Executive for a health screening and brief intervention
  • on the second occasion, An Garda Síochána would have discretion to issue an Adult Caution

The report of the Working Group and the minority report can be accessed below.

Report of the Working Group to Consider Alternative Approaches to the Possession of Drugs for Personal Use

Download

Minority Report of Garrett Sheehan, Chairperson of the Working Group to Consider Alternative Approaches to the Possession of Drugs for Personal Use

Download

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Policy