Review of approaches taken in Ireland and in other jurisdictions to simple possession drug offences

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Date Commenced:
Expected Date of Completion:
Project Supporters:

The Irish Department of Justice and Equality and the Irish Department of Health

Drug Type:
Project Members: 
image - Caitlin Hughes
Senior Lecturer
Ph 02 9385 0132
Project Main Description: 

This project will provide an international literature review of the approaches taken in Ireland and other jurisdictions to simple possession drug offences. The goals are threefold: first to outline the current legislative regime that applies to simple possession offences in Ireland and the rationale underpinning this approach, and any evidence of its effectiveness; second, to outline approaches and experiences in nine jurisdictions (including Australia, Portugal and the Czech Republic) to dealing with simple possession offences; and third, to review the evidence-base on the effectiveness of alternate approaches for dealing with the offence of simple possession on the individual, the family and society, as well as for the criminal justice system and the health system.

This project was conducted by Dr Caitlin Hughes and Shann Hulme (DPMP, NDARC), alongside Professor Alex Stevens and Dr Rebecca Cassidy (University of Kent, UK).  

Project Collaborators: External: 

Professor Alex Stevens
University of Kent, UK

Dr Rebecca Cassidy
University of Kent, UK

Design and Method: 

A rapid realist review was conducted of the international evidence on alternatives to simple possession following the RAMESES protocol (Realist And Meta-narrative Evidence Syntheses: Evolving Standards) (Wong, Greenhalgh, Westhorp, Buckingham, & Pawson, 2013). Nine nations with alternative approaches were selected based on their mix of reform types and relevance to the Irish situation: Australia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England and Wales, Germany, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United States of America (USA). This gave rise to 15 different approaches: between one and three per country.

A total of 158 documents covering these nations and approaches were extracted. 


A report has been submitted to the funders: Hughes, C., Stevens, A., Hulme, S., & Cassidy, R. (2018). Review of approaches taken in Ireland and in other jurisdictions to simple possession drug offences. A report for the Irish Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Health. UNSW Australia and University of Kent.

This is currently under embargo. 

Project Status: