Research Report

The Operation and Effectiveness of the Scottish Drug Court Pilots



McIvor G, Barnsdale L, Eley S, Malloch M, Yates R & Brown A (2006) The Operation and Effectiveness of the Scottish Drug Court Pilots. Scottish Executive. Crime and Criminal Justice, Social Research. Scottish Executive.

Scotland's first Drug Court was established in Glasgow Sheriff Court in October 2001 and a second pilot Drug Court was introduced in Fife in August 2002, sitting in Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy Sheriff Courts. Both Drug Courts were aimed at offenders aged 21 years or older of both sexes, in respect of whom there was an established relationship between a pattern of serious drug misuse and offending. They aimed to reduce the level of drug-related offending behaviour, to reduce or eliminate offenders' dependence on or propensity to use drugs and to examine the viability and usefulness of a Drug Court in Scotland, especially, in the case of Fife, in a non-urban centre. All Orders made by the Drug Court - Probation Orders or Drug Treatment and Testing Orders ( DTTOs) were subject to drug testing (urinalysis) and regular (at least monthly) review. The evaluation concluded that Drug Courts could not provide a panacea for the problem of drug-related crime, however there was evidence that a sizeable proportion of clients made subject to Drug Court Orders were able to achieve and sustain reductions in drug use and associated offending behaviour. Given the difficult client group with whom they were engaging and the challenges of providing a co-ordinated multi-professional response, the pilot Drug Courts could be deemed to have been a success. While operational difficulties were encountered during the establishment and operation of the pilots, there was widespread support for the Drug Courts both from those working within them and from other criminal justice professionals, such as Sheriffs sitting in other courts. Particular challenges faced by the pilots included: obtaining sufficient appropriate referrals; dealing with staff turnover and ensuring that the Supervision and Treatment Team is adequately resourced; developing effective multi-professional teamwork; dealing with changing patterns of drug use; providing for longer-term support for those on Orders; and developing appropriate IT systems to support the work of the Court. The main strengths of the Drug Court appeared to be the 'fast-tracking' of offenders (in Glasgow), the existence of a trained and dedicated team with regular contact with participants, and the system of pre-court review meetings and reviews. The dialogue between the bench and Drug Court participants was viewed almost universally as a central component of the Drug Court process. The Drug Court Sheriffs reported being better informed about drug use and therefore better able to respond appropriately to those appearing before the Court.

drug court; drug related crime; scotland; Drug abuse Scotland; Recidivists Scotland; Drug control Great Britain

Title of seriesCrime and Criminal Justice, Social Research
Publication date31/03/2006
PublisherScottish Executive
Publisher URL
ISBN0 7559 2592 0

People (2)


Professor Margaret Malloch

Professor Margaret Malloch

Professor, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology

Professor Gillian McIvor

Professor Gillian McIvor

Emeritus Professor, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology