The Department of Home Affairs is seeking to introduce the Custody (Amendment) Bill 2013 in the House of Keys next week to update the rules relating to drug testing in prison.
The current legislation, the Custody Act 1995, does not allow for ‘intimate samples’ to be obtained from prisoners to test for the presence of controlled substances.
Mandatory drug testing at the Isle of Man prison, which involves the taking of urine samples, has been suspended until the matter is resolved.
The anomaly came to light during a routine internal review of the custody legislation and the Department of Home Affairs is taking action by introducing a Bill to the House of Keys on 22 October.
Approval will be sought for a two-clause Custody (Amendment) Bill 2013 to increase the range of samples a prisoner may be required to provide for the purpose of testing for controlled drugs or alcohol.
Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson MHK said: ‘The presence and use of controlled drugs or alcohol by prisoners is harmful to the maintenance of good order and discipline in the prison. The most effective way to test for controlled substances in custody is through the taking of urine samples. An internal review of the legislation raised a question mark over whether the Department has the power to test for drugs using urine samples as they are defined as intimate samples. The prison immediately stopped conducting tests for controlled drugs using urine samples in order to take legal advice on this issue.’
The Minister added: ‘The Department has set about rectifying the situation as soon as it became apparent. This Bill seeks to clarify the law by making a provision that will enable officers to take urine samples, as well as any other non-intimate samples such as hair and saliva. The proposed Bill also clarifies that a sample of breath may be obtained if it is necessary to establish the presence of alcohol in a prisoner.
‘The Department has always taken a very tough stance in order to protect prison officers and prisoners themselves from the dangers posed by the use of illegal substances and mandatory drug testing is an essential part of the prison regime. We also take the rights of prisoners very seriously and the current suspension is in nobody’s interest. We are therefore taking steps to update the legislation at the earliest possible sittings of the House of Keys and Legislative Council.’
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