Ayr’s sheriff court has received top marks for its caring attitude when supporting addicts attending drug treatment and testing order (DTTO) hearings.

Karyn McCluskey, the chief executive of Community Justice Scotland, praised the court’s staff after a recent visit to Ayr Sheriff Court.

DTTOs are alternatives to traditional jail or community sentences where someone struggling with drug addiction is put on an intensive treatment programme, alongside random testing to check that they are drug-free, in a bid to break what is often a lengthy cycle of offending.

Writing in The Scotsman newspaper, Ms McCluskey said: “The first part of the court day was closed for those who were on drug treatment and testing orders (DTTO).

“For an order to happen, there must be a scheme in that area and an individual must agree to accept treatment for drug misuse (including frequent and random drug testing).

“Supervision and support is provided by social work and health staff plus the sheriff reviews the case monthly.

“I must declare that I am divided on DTTO. Addiction is a health issue and it sits uncomfortably with me when we are mandating – even when there is agreement – treatment and testing in a justice setting.

“Yet, and here is where the contradiction lies, I have met so many people who tell me that the road to recovery started with a DTTO.

“I have sat in courts where those who had completed their order were in tears at their achievement – so what do I know! I remain conflicted but know that there is much support for the approach.

“I can’t speak of the people who were in court that day – their stories are not mine to tell, but The experience was life-affirming in so many ways. For those who had stayed the distance with the programme, there was pride, respect and achievement. For those who couldn’t – I feared what the future held, so deep was their addiction.

“The magic ingredient was the people within the court who were genuinely invested in the outcomes of those who were appearing. From the sheriff, to the social worker, from the court police officer to the court officials – there was a palpable sense that they were rooting for them.

“They were committed to the process, and even more so to the person.”