When a court is satisfied that a convicted person is dependent on (or tends to misuse) drugs, and their drug use can be treated, they can make a drug treatment and testing order, or “DTTO”.
DTTOs are intended to be a long-term solution to an offender’s drug misuse. They are relatively common in cases where an individual finds themselves regularly being convicted of relatively low-level crimes of theft, such as shoplifting, in order to fund a drug habit. The existence of DTTOs is a recognition that short-term prison sentences are far less beneficial to society at large than addressing the underlying cause of offending.
Before imposing a DTTO, the court will ask for a “DTTO Assessment” to be carried out by the local authority. This usually requires the individual to be at liberty (i.e. not remanded in custody) during the deferral of sentence in order for the assessment to be carried out.
Additionally, before imposing the DTTO, the court must explain to the individual, “in ordinary language”, the effect of the order and its requirements, the potential consequences of breaching it, the court’s power to vary or revoke it, and the periodical review of the order (see below).
A DTTO can be imposed for a minumum of six months, and a maximum of three years. During that time, the convicted person must submit themselves to drug treatment in order to reduce or eliminate their misuse of drugs. They must also submit to drug testing at regular intervals, so that their levels of drug use can be monitored and recorded.
A DTTO is a form of community sentence (i.e. you cannot adhere to DTTO requirements if you are in prison) and is overseen by a “supervising officer” from the local authority, with whom the convicted person must stay in contact and intimate any changes of address. The supervising officer will produce reports to the court on the person’s progress (which can relate to their social/financial/housing status, as well as their drug use).
The court will likely schedule “DTTO reviews” periodically (at least a month between reviews, normally six weeks), at which the DTTO subject must be present, and the supervising officer’s latest report will be considered. Depending on the individual’s progress, the court may lessen the frequency of these in-person reviews as a show of trust in their ability to carry on with the DTTO without the need to come back to court so often (or even at all).
The court has the power to vary the DTTO requirements (e.g. by extending its length within the three-year maximum) or revoke the order. Any changes to the DTTO requirements must be with the agreement of the DTTO subject, otherwise the order should be left alone or revoked entirely.
If it is proven that a DTTO has been breached by the individual subject to it, the court can impose a fine of up to £1000 while allowing the order to continue, vary the order, revoke the order or do nothing.
If the court revokes a DTTO, it can “dispose of the offender in any way which would have been competent at the time when the order was made”, while having regard to the time for which the order has been in operation. For many people subject to DTTOs as a last-chance saloon, that could well mean imprisonment for the original offence.