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Supporting rehabilitation and recovery through enforcing drugs testing in and outside prison

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We note that despite the introduction of provisions for the compulsory testing for controlled drugs and alcohol at HM Prison by the former GSD Government in 2011, not one person has been tested under the compulsory powers provided to Prisoner Officers. Moreover, no use has been made of the provisions which allow the Parole Board to add conditions to those who are granted parole to undergo a period of compulsory drugs testing. This was also a legislative change introduced by the GSD Government.

In Parliament last week both the Leader of the Opposition, Daniel Feetham MP, and the Shadow Minister for Justice, Elliott Phillips MP, pressed the Alliance Government on the reasons for the absence of compulsory drugs testing at the Prison and the attachment of conditions to paroled prisoners.

The response was that the Prison preferred arrangements whereby prisoners would voluntarily agree to submit to drugs testing in exchange for prison privileges. We believe that although voluntary arrangements should be encouraged the authorities must use the provisions of the law on mandatory drugs testing as part of wider strategy on drugs. In relation to parole and where a prison applicant for parole has substance abuse issues, there should be compulsory drugs testing on release as a condition of parole. When people who have been granted parole are released back into the community they are often vulnerable, without work and support networks and it is important that as part of ongoing rehabilitation they are subjected to regular drugs testing as a condition of their release.

Tackling substance abuse and alcohol misuse is a very difficult challenge and it requires robust education and training programmes in and outside of the prison context, as well as a rehabilitation and counselling programmes that offer continuing support to those plagued with addiction. Recovery from addiction is a long process and it requires support at all levels.

At the opening of Parliament the Chief Minister pledged to bring drugs and rehabilitation with his responsibility, there is little evidence that this has happened. Substance abuse and addiction must be tackled seriously and at every level.

Commenting on the position Elliott Phillips MP, Shadow Minister for Justice, said “We understand the challenges faced by the authorities on the question of substance and alcohol abuse, we don’t pretend that it is easy, but we have at our disposal provisions within the law which are not being used effectively. Substance abuse is corrosive, it destroys families and society. Alongside robust rehabilitation programmes and support we must enforce the provisions of the law at our disposal. Drugs must be tackled by winning the small battles that we can win along the way, such as creating opportunities for recovering addicts to get back into society and working”.

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Chief Minister’s meeting over £300 Million question

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We continue to hold the GSLP/Liberals to account on the structure and reasoning for the £300 million borrowing announced in the budget, which is secured by way of mortgage over six Government housing estates – namely Moorish Castle Estate, Glacis Estate, Laguna Estate, Alameda Estate, Mid Harbour and Varyl Begg Estate.

Roy Clinton MP, Shadow Minister for Public Finance, said “It was quite unprecedented for the Chief Minister to offer a technical meeting in lieu of answering in full the 26 detailed questions tabled in Parliament in respect of the £300 million borrowing secured by a mortgage over six Government housing estates.  However in the interests of expediency we have agreed to meet directly with the Government’s technical advisors to fill in any gaps in our understanding of this transaction. With the exception of any commercially sensitive information we will be free to disclose any information we obtain. It is our intention to hold a press conference shortly after the meeting to set out in full our analysis of the transaction and what it means for the people of Gibraltar.”

Read official Parliamentary answers to Questions 536 to 561 here:

QA 534-588

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Redibikes not Ready ?

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It’s almost a year since the Alliance Government announced their scheme to replace ‘Gibibikes’ with their own ‘Redibikes’ to encourage people out of their cars and onto bikes. An endless list comes to mind about just how ‘Redi’ the scheme was when Minister Balban announced it with much fanfare during the general election, saying “I am pleased to announce that Government received a consignment of bicycles and their associated infrastructure on 5th August. All enabling works for the bicycle stations has now been completed and we are aiming to be in a position to launch the scheme in early 2016″. Yet despite this it was discovered through questions in Parliament that Government is still negotiating to purchase land on which some of the bicycle docking stations are to be located.

Trevor Hammond, GSD MP, said “It was completely disingenuous of the Minister to have made this announcement when he did, it now seems to have been no more than an election gimmick. This project was promised for early this year and yet as we approach Autumn we discover that it is mired in technicalities that the Alliance must have foreseen when making the original announcement. It is equally bad if they had not foreseen these problems. As with the long awaited speed cameras and the much vaunted Sustainable Traffic and Transport Plan which remains in draft form awaiting publication, one wonders if the Minister is able to see a project through to completion”.

No real plan for traffic

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