Drugs Offences – Including Importation, Possession, and Production
Case Study 1
Client was raided by the police at his home address and the police seized a large quanity of heroin and cannabis. He was a well know drug taker and the police had mounted an operation to target him. Client argued that the drugs were for his personal use and he received a discount if he bought in bulk.
Verdict: Not Guilty
Case Study 2
client was charged as a result of being stopped at Dover , having hidden in his shoe a large amount of heroin. If he had been cionvicted he would have served 5 years imprisonment. The trial lasted 2 days at Canterbury Crown Court. Client stated he had no knowledge of the shoes containing drugs.
Verdict: Not Guilty
Case Study 3
Student caught with a small amount of cannabis. Interviewed at the police station with My brief present as solicitor. The client was released after receiving a caution.
Much of the law on drugs is contained in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It was intended to regulate the flow and use of controlled drugs.
It is an offence to even possess most banned substances, and the level of seriousness depends on two main factors:
• The type of substance
• The purpose of the defendant’s involvement with the substance
The Type of Substance
As most people are aware, illegal drugs broadly fall into three categories or classes – A, B, and C, with A viewed most seriously.
Examples of class A drugs include Ecstasy, Cocaine and Heroin.
Examples of class B drugs include amphetamines such as speed, cannabis(it has been upgraded from class C).
Examples of class C drugs include some tranquilisers, anabolic steroids.
Purpose of the Defendant’s Involvement with the Substance
The second important factor when deciding the seriousness of a charge is the
nature of the involvement. This means that possession is not very serious, but possession with intent to supply is serious.
Offences involving the importation, exportation, or production of any type of illegal substance is serious, and can result in a custodial sentence of more than 10 years.
Possession and Possession with Intent to Supply
If a person is charged with straight possession of a substance, even if it is a class A substance, then a prison sentence is very unlikely even if they are convicted after a trial. If they are charged with possession with intent to supply, then the case can only be dealt with in the Crown Court, and a prison sentence is very likely if they are found guilty or even of they plead guilty early on. Possession with intent to supply basically means drug dealing, and can range from a few small bags of cannabis, to several suitcases of cocaine.
The length of sentence
will depend on several factors, such as the quantity and strength of drugs, whether the dealing is party of a larger operation etc.
Possession with intent to supply class A drugs carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, although sentences over 10 years are rare.
Class B and C drug dealing convictions usually result in a much shorter prison sentence, although the maximum is 14 years.
Factors which can reduce sentence include:
• Whether dealing has been done to fund a drug habit
• Whether there has been pressure from other dealers to deal for them (sometimes called duress). This is very difficult to use as a defence to escape a guilty verdict, but can help in sentence.
• Cooperation with the police
• An early guilty plea
• The age of the offender
Evidence in Possession with Intent to Supply Cases
The classic defence in many drug supply cases is the defence of personal use. The drugs that have been found were to be consumed only by the defendant.
The prosecution might seek to put forward evidence which they say shows that the use is not only personal.
This might include:
• A large amount of drugs
• Large quantities of unexplained cash
• Lists of names with amounts of money written next to them (could show customer accounts)
• Materials for packaging large amounts to smaller amounts, such as wraps or ‘snap’ bags
• Scales or other items used in the preparation or sale of drugs
Importation, Exportation and Production
These offences are viewed as very serious because they usually involve large quantities of drugs and career drug dealers who sometimes make millions of pounds.
They are also treated very seriously because they are seen to be vital to the whole illegal drug trade. Without producers and large scale suppliers, the small time dealers do not have access to drugs to deal on the street.
Evidence in Importation / Exportation Cases
In importation cases, as with many drugs cases, mobile phone evidence is particularly important. Where conspiracy is alleged by the prosecution, defendants have to be linked together for the charge to be made out, and phone traffic between individuals can show this, and also theoretically bring new defendants into the equation. So called ‘cell-site analysis’ can also be used to show approximate locations of defendants at certain times, although this evidence can sometimes be challenged.
Sat Nav units in cars can even sometimes be used to trace the whereabouts of defendants.
Production of drugs cases
These cases are viewed as the most serious and often attract a high sentence.
However, the courts do make distinctions between different levels of involvement in such cases, from “workers”, who receive lighter sentences, and supervisors, or people in authority over the operation, who can face long periods of custody.