SUSPECTS arrested for certain offences will be automatically tested for drugs in a bid to smash the link between drugs and crime, it has been revealed.
Pilot schemes testing the new system are expected to be extended to West Yorkshire next spring.
Under the scheme, anyone arrested for offences such as robbery or burglary will be tested for Class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
Anyone who tests positive will have to attend a compulsory drug assessment by specialist drug workers to discover the extent of their problem.
They will then be helped into treatment or other support, even if they are not charged.
But anyone who fails to provide a sample or comply with the assessment faces a fine of up to £2,500 or three months in prison.
Courts will also be able to deny bail unless the offender agrees to a drug assessment plus follow up treatment or support.
The Government introduced the new powers after consultation with the police and other agencies.
The pilot schemes are now happening in Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.
Home Office minister Paul Goggins said: "We are committed to tackling drug misuse and the harm it creates.
"Apart from the personal misery they cause, drugs are a major driver of crime.
"Testing on arrest and compulsory assessment will help to identify more drug misusing offenders within the criminal justice system, help more of them into treatment, reduce the amount of crime they commit and so make communities safer."
He added: "The Government's Drugs Strategy is delivering real benefits to communities across the country with record numbers of people entering and staying in treatment and drug-related crime coming down."
The Government is now seeking the views of the police, courts and drugs agencies on setting limits for the possession of controlled drugs.
This will help the courts to differentiate between possession and intent to supply.