A revolutionary new scheme that could keep some young drug offenders out of the criminal justice system has been launched this week in Windsor and Maidenhead.

The scheme would allow prosecutions to be deferred if they accepted 'a tailored diversion route to address their use of drugs'.

The scheme does not apply to offenders in possession of large quantities of drugs or who are suspected of supplying - while those who reject the specialist support would still face prosecution.

It mirrors a similar scheme already operating in West Berkshire - which differs slightly is that the support offered is not compulsory, although anyone caught with drugs a second time will not get another chance.

Detective Superintendent Justin Fletcher, said: “Thames Valley Police has seen children as young as 12 involved in the drugs trade.

"The scheme is going to run alongside the first pilot which is in West Berkshire, and both have involvement from a range of partners including the Cranstoun charity which provides the drug support service, the Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley who has helped fund the scheme, Windsor and Maidenhead Council and the Youth Offending Team.

“The pilot in West Berkshire has already shown success when working with children and young people. From a previous preliminary evaluation it found 78 per cent completed the full programme of treatment.

“The scheme provided an opportunity for intervention and a chance for those referred to further specialist youth support.

“The process is also more efficient for officers as when a diversion is in place there is no requirement to attend custody and therefore helps to free up valuable time for frontline officers, meaning they can spend more time targeting serious crime which is causing more harm to our local communities.

“The drugs diversion scheme is in place to help people rather than only provide a criminal sanction. This is to deliver an opportunity to change behaviour and receive support rather than a criminal record in the hope to reduce drug use and the drugs market in the area.”