The Working Group Report
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 – a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025’. 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, people with high risk of problematic drug use 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.
The report of the Working Group and the minority report can be accessed below:
- Minority Report of Garrett Sheehan, Chair of the Working Group
- Final Report of the Working Group
- ANNEXE I - Hughes Stevens Hulme Cassidy - 2018 - Review of approaches taken in Ireland and in other jurisdictions to simple possession drug offences
- ANNEXE II - Consultation Report
- ANNEXE III_- Costings of an alternative approach to personal drug possession