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Sentencing postponed as cocaine-smuggling sailboat captain undergoes surgery

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Scotland is drug death capital of Europe, new study reveals

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Scotland is drug death capital of Europe

Scotland has the highest number of drug-related deaths in Europe, and fatalities linked to the consumption of substances such as heron in the country are on the rise, according to a new report from a government agency.

A statistical update from Audit Scotland on the nation’s drug and alcohol services has revealed that drug-related deaths rose to 934 in 2017, a 71% increase on the 525 people who lost their lives as a consequence of drug consumption in 2009.

Seventy-six percent of those deaths occurred in the 35 years and over age group, suggesting that drug problems are increasingly affecting older people in Scotland.

The most significant increase in drug-related deaths in this age category was recorded in people aged 45 and over, who accounted for 37% of fatalities in 2017, up from 20% of the total in 2009.

According to the update, opioids are the most problematic group of drugs, and are implicated in the majority of drug-related deaths in the country.

The study also found that while use of new psychoactive substances such as the synthetic cannabinoid Spice has declined in the general population since the introduction of the UK government’s Psychoactive Substances Act in 2016, these types of drugs are still causing significant harm among vulnerable groups such as prisoners.

Commenting on the findings outlined in the update, Auditor General for Scotland Caroline Gardner said: “The last decade has seen several notable achievements in drug and alcohol treatment in Scotland, including more recovery communities, improved drug harm reduction strategies and minimum unit pricing for alcohol.

“But without clear performance data around what measures are working, the government will continue to find it hard to achieve its aim of reducing deaths and better supporting people to recover.”

Earlier this week, the Press Association reported that former addicts had told UK Parliament’s Commons Scottish Affairs Committee that providing users of drugs such as heroin with replacement treatments such as methadone is leaving them wandering around “like zombies”.

Former heroin addict Sharon Brand, who now runs the Recovery Dundee charity, told the committee: “There’s people who have been on methadone since they were 15, 30 years now, there’s two generations in each family who are either on methadone or a chaotic user.

“I’ve not got a great opinion of methadone. I think done right, for a very short period, it could work but I think there are a lot more and better ways to help somebody get past that stage.”

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Dutch judges refuse to extradite suspected British drug smuggler to UK over fears he could be locked up in rat-infested jail

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rat-infested jail

Judges in the Netherlands have refused to extradite a suspected British drug smuggler back to the UK owing to fears about the conditions at a prison to which he might be transferred.

British prosecutors have applied for the man, who has not been named for legal reasons, to be extradited back to the UK following his capture after he had been on the run for almost two years.

At a hearing at the Court of Amsterdam, judges raised concerns that due to the man’s links to the Merseyside area, he could be locked up in HMP Liverpool if he were to be sent back to the UK to face a number of drug-related charges.

In a report published in January of last year, prison inspectors described conditions at the jail as the worst they had ever seen, noting high levels of violence, widespread abuse of drugs, which were being smuggled into the jail by drone, and the presence of rats and cockroaches.

Refusing to agree to the extradition of the man, who had been made the subject of a European Arrest Warrant while attempting to avoid being detained by police, the Dutch judges ruled: “In the opinion of the court, what has been put forward by the UK judicial authorities is too general and insufficient to assume the detention conditions in the aforementioned prison institutions have (significantly) improved…

“[T]he court concludes that there is a real risk that, in the event of surrender to the United Kingdom, the person claimed will be subjected to inhumane or degrading treatment.”

Responding to the Dutch court’s ruling, the UK Ministry of Justice said: “We strongly refute the idea that any of our prisons provide inhuman or degrading conditions.

“There have been significant improvements since the inspections of Liverpool, Birmingham and Bedford prisons and neither our domestic courts nor the European Court of Human Rights has ever ruled that they are in breach of Article 3.”

In its report at the beginning of 2018, HM Inspectorate of Prisons said it was hard to believe that the leaders of the jail had allowed it to deteriorate into such a poor condition.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said statistics relating to conditions at the jail did “not adequately describe the abject failure of HMP Liverpool to offer a safe, decent and purposeful environment”.

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Irish prison chiefs consider using new technology to prevent contraband being smuggled into jails by drone

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smuggled into jails by drone

Prison bosses in Ireland are examining how technology can be used to prevent organised criminal gangs using drones to smuggle contraband including drugs into jails.

Speaking at the Irish Prison Officers’ Association (POA) annual conference in Sligo on Thursday, the organisation’s President Tony Power told delegates that 50 packages containing drugs and other contraband were either dropped by drone or thrown into the exercise yards of Wheatfield Prison last month.

He went on to say that without investment in nets to prevent further attempts to smuggle contraband in to Irish jails using drones, prison authorities may need to consider preventing inmates from using exercise yards.

Power was speaking after it was reported last month that police in Ireland had arrested a man and a woman after drugs, mobiles phones and a drone were recovered from a vehicle close to Castlerea Prison in Co Roscommon.

Explaining how seriously authorities are taking the issue, Caron McCaffrey, Director General of the Irish Prison Service, said: “We’ve recently been looking at different technological solutions available to us to deal with this issue and I’m glad to say we are close to introducing a new technology on a trial basis in one of our prisons to see if this can assist us with keeping contraband out of our prisons.

“Staff from our operations directorate recently attended an international forum where we were looking at best practice and emerging technologies in relation to dealing with the issue of drones and other security threats to prisons.”

McCaffrey said that any technology used to prevent drones being used to smuggle contraband into Irish jails must be tested to ensure it poses no threat to members of the public.

In December last year, it was reported that the UK government was considering installing anti-drone technology at jails in England after a successful test of the system in Guernsey.

SkyFence technology, developed by UK-based Drone Defence, can locate a drone signal within a 1,000 metre radius and disable it.

The dangers posed by the criminal use of drones was highlighted last December when London’s Gatwick Airport was brought to standstill after several sightings of drones.

During an interview for a BBC Panorama documentary last month that examined the chaos at Gatwick, Professor David Dunn from the University of Birmingham said it is inevitable that terrorists will use drones to attack the West.

“Terrorists like novelty, and there’s also a symbolic value of using a drone to attack Western targets,” he said. “Everyone that we talk to who is concerned with security regards this as inevitable.”

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