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Drug programmes are far more effective in diverting offenders from crime than conventional punishments, according to a report published yesterday.

The report from the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders partly challenges the findings of a survey by The Big Issue in the North Trust that came out last week.

The Big Issue in the North survey of 560 drug users claimed that a third had been in contact with services supposed to help them quit for more than five years. More than 80 per cent on the heroin substitute methadone also said they used some sort of street drug on a daily basis.

The NACRO report says treatment programmes have proved 'highly effective' in reducingreoffending by drug-addicted offenders.

It highlights a Department of Health-funded study tracking 1,100 people who entered drug treatment programmes in 1995.

This study found that the number of people using drugs was halved after two years, while the percentage involved in property-related crime halved from 52 to27 per cent.

Drug-driven crime: a factual and statistical analysis. NACRO, 169 Clapham Road, London, SW9 0PU.£3.