Drug dogs to detect new versions of Spice to stay one step ahead of criminals

Prison drug dogs are to be trained to sniff out new and emerging strands of the psychoactive substance known as Spice as part of the Government’s comprehensive plan to tackle violence and disorder behind bars.

Mar 2, 2021
By Tony Thompson

In the past year alone more than 100kg of illegal drugs, including Spice, have been detected by drug dogs in England and Wales. But the efforts of some suppliers to outwit detection by changing the chemical make-up of Spice makes it difficult for dogs to find.

The current price of psychoactive substances ranges from £130 to £1,000 for an A4 sheet of impregnated paper. Smaller pieces of impregnated paper, credit card-sized, can range from £40 to £100 based on recent intelligence.

A new partnership between the Ministry of Justice and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) will provide £300,000 of investment to support scientists to create expanded detection programmes. It will see scientists analysing the psychoactive substance as it changes, to determine the most effective and safest way to train dogs to sniff out new blends of Spice.

Prisons Minister Lucy Frazer MP said: “Spice drives violence, self-harm and crime behind bars so it’s crucial we prevent it getting into the hands of prisoners.”

The sniffer dogs will then undergo training in scent recognition followed by an operational assessment before they are placed into prisons.

Dog handler and trainer Kev Appleton from the National Dog Inspectorate said: “This partnership will significantly increase our dogs’ effectiveness in the fight against trafficking, substance misuse and violence in our prisons.”

A Dstl spokesperson said: “Dstl is pleased to be joining this new partnership with the Ministry of Justice to tackle drug use in UK prisons, with a team of expert scientists supporting investigations. Dstl is also working more broadly with government to counter evolving drug threats.”

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