The PDD Project: Evaluating police-led diversion schemes

Funder: Evaluation Accelerator Fund (EAF), Cabinet Office

Criminal sanctions are often used by police forces to tackle drug problems. In England and Wales an alternative – drug diversion – now occupies a central position in police responses. This is used for people suspected of either a low level drug offence or an offence related to their drug use. Police-led drug diversion (PDD) schemes have potential to reduce harms done by – and to – those who use drugs. Diversion to education, therapy or social services can steer people away from prosecution. Current UK policy supports diversion schemes, but the evidence base is limited.

The University of Kent, with the College of Policing, is leading a £1.8m project to assess diversion schemes for drug-involved suspects.  This study is funded by the Government’s Evaluation Accelerator Fund.  It will evaluate the process, outcomes, equity and cost effectiveness of the PDD schemes currently operating in Thames Valley, Durham and the West Midlands

In other countries, such schemes have demonstrated the reduction of re-offending. This has saved police time and money. They can also improve health and reduce ethnic disparities in law enforcement.

Principal Investigator Alex Stevens, Professor in Criminal Justice, leads the University of Kent team. Supporting him are:

  • Nadine Hendrie (CHSS)
  • Dr Ashley Mills (CHSS)
  • Dr Jack Cunliffe (SSPSSR)
  • Dr Guillermo Reyes-Pascual (SSPSSR)

Using data collected by the police, NHS, and national drug treatment services. This data will assess the impacts of diversion on:

  • Crime
  • Hospitalisations
  • Engagement with drug treatment

Outcomes for people eligible for diversion will be compared between police forces in areas that do or do not yet have PDD schemes, assessing effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the PDD schemes already operating.

The team will conduct interviews and focus groups with drug involved suspects and people who deliver PDD schemes. These include police officers, drug treatment providers, service users and their families. This will help to understand and analyse how the schemes work in practice. How equitable the effects of PDD are (e.g. by ethnicity and gender) will also be examined, whilst seeking to evaluate the effects of PDD on crime, health, and public spending.

Project partners include:

  • College of Policing
  • University of Loughborough
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of York
  • Open University
  • Bradford Institute of Health Research
  • Office for Health Improvement and Disparities
  • Office of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner
  • Thames Valley Police
  • Durham Police
  • User Voice
  • National Police Chiefs Council

The research project concludes in March 2025 and will inform the Government 2025 spending review.

Read the protocol published paper here 

Last updated 4 March 2024