AN ADDICTION service meant to provide support to those with a drug dependency is in chaos, a lawyer has claimed.

Andrew Watts-Jones, a solicitor with more than 25 years’ experience, made the charge as he defended a West Swindon man who it was claimed had been let down by drugs service Turning Point.

The national organisation took over responsibility for supporting Swindon drug and alcohol addicts to get clean in April last year.

But lawyers and probation officers say Turning Point officers regularly fail to turn up at court to assess drug dependant defendants for Drug Rehabilitation Requirement orders, a community sentence aimed at getting people off drugs.

And judges at Swindon Crown Court are said to be so frustrated at the new firm’s performance they have ordered a report from probation officers detailing delays. The work is being led by Judge Robert Pawson, the Advertiser understands.

The problems with Turning Point came to light as magistrates were forced to adjourn sentencing 24-year-old Lee Staples, convicted of breaching a suspended sentence order. Staples, of Beaulieu Close, Toothill, who appeared in the dock on Wednesday, had previously failed to turn up at court – a move described by defence solicitor Andrew Watts-Jones as “twerpish”.

However, the lawyer added: “we wouldn’t have made any progress because Turning Point hadn’t kept their appointment with him, so there wouldn’t have been a [DRR] report anyway. And they’re not here today.” He said Turning Point was in chaos. Magistrates adjourned the case to February 13 for reports.

Following the hearing, Mr Watts-Jones told the Advertiser: “It appears there is only one person dealing with DRRs at Swindon Magistrates’ Court. How many people live in Swindon? That’s ridiculous.

“It’s unusual for there to be anybody here from the drug organisation. Not just on Wednesdays – but generally.

“All of us in the legal profession and in society more widely rely on agencies like Turning Point to sort these people out.

Drugs and alcohol are behind the majority of offending and organisations like Turning Point are absolutely crucial.”

Getting addicts clean from drugs saved the state money in the long-run, he argued. “These people often don’t think anybody cares or will do anything. They have self worth issues, which can be why they abuse themselves in the first place. If the drugs organisations don’t do anything it reinforces that life view.”

A spokeswoman for Turning Point said: “Anyone who wants help with their drug or alcohol use is welcome at Turning Point and we would never turn anyone away.”

Addressing the Staples case, she added: “While we don’t recognise this particular account we are working to unpick exactly what happened in this situation and feedback to everyone involved.”

Swindon Borough Council commissions the drugs service. A spokesman said: “Turning Point has been providing drug and alcohol services in Swindon since April last year following a re-commissioning process led by the council.

 “We can say with confidence that Turning Point has worked extremely hard to engage with partner agencies during the transition and, despite the challenges, it is now seeing a significant period of stability which will enable it to continue to provide vital support services to some of society’s most vulnerable people.”