According to data gathered from research carried out recently, about four out of 10 officers in the police force in England and Wales failed in asking suspects if they are addicted to gambling.
It was revealed that their preliminary screening includes checking for their alcohol and drug addiction. Still, according to data shared with the File on 4 Programme on BBC Radio 4, 41% of the forces do not care about checking for their gambling addiction.
In response to this research, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) said it will be working on improving its screening procedure to include a gambling addiction check.
Recall that this formal screening process by the police forces can be used as part of the suspect’s mitigation if they are charged to court, and the refusal to include their check on gambling addiction will lead to a lack of treatment, and critics believe it will be further offending.
The Best Practice
Currently, the Howard League for Penal Reform has submitted a Fol request, and here is what the chairman of the Commission on Crime and Gambling Related Harms, Lord Goldsmith, has to say about the situation: “The police have got a lot to do – we have to recognize that – but this, not a difficult thing to do.” He also added that this is something that can be included in their screening procedures, and it is good that people are aware of the issue.
The Council of National Police Chiefs added that they had recognized the need to put in more work in the field to ensure the best practice of the entire police force. Also, according to the council, improving the screening procedures can be a way of supporting gambling addicts and showing them the way to get further help.
Also, the NPCC added that for this approach to work well, it requires partnership as the intervention of the police often comes at a much later stage. Nonetheless, the council assures that they will intensify their relationship with their partners to ensure that gambling addicts get the right support they need.
The council also added that there is a free training course launched in September 2021 for all police officers on how to pick the early signs of gambling addiction, which is still available.
Ben’s Story Example
An example of the situation is this; Ben Jones, from Nottinghamshire, stole a sum of £374,000 just to feed his gambling addiction, and he reported that the police forces did not ask him about his addiction after he was apprehended and arrested. He also did not get the required help he needed in prison after bagging a three-year jail term in 2019. This is unlike the various programs available for drug and alcohol addicts.
According to Ben, going to prison worsened the matter, because prison is the perfect storm for gambling. There is no support, not many resources, and boredom, and it is quite difficult for some with an underlying addiction to stay away from gambling in prison. His story is not unique, we covered the story of David Hay in March who stole £36,000 to fund his gambling addiction.
The Ministry of Justice assures that they have put up new guidelines that can help and equip their staff in further helping gambling addicts.