Supply Possession of Drugs class A class B class C

Drug Offences

There were over 175,000 drug offences commited last year, up 13% on the previous year.

 

Get the advice you need to protect yourself, your family, your home, your job, your liberty.

Overview

Today illegal drugs are more available and more commonly used than ever, however there are a number of different criminal offences which restrict the supply and use of drugs. 

It is illegal to possess, supply and produce controlled drugs. It is also illegal to import or export drugs, or to allow your premises to be used for drug production. 

Controlled drugs fall into three different categories, Class A, B or C, according to their danger or how harmful they are. The sentences for drug offences are different for each class of drugs. Class A drugs are the most harmful, and will lead to a higher sentence.

 

Possession of drugs

Carrying controlled drugs is illegal and you can be charged even if you did not know what you had was a controlled drug, or if the drugs are yours or not.

Not all of these offences are prosecuted, if you are found in possession of cannabis or khat, the police may deal with this in the form of a warning or on the spot fine for your first offence.

 

Supply of drugs

An offence has been committed if you have sold or are found sharing drugs with others, even if they did not pay you for them.

 

Possession of drugs with intent to supply

If you are in possession of controlled drugs, and either there is evidence that you were intending to supply those drugs, or you have more drugs than is consistent with personal use, an offence of possession with intent to supply could be committed.

 

Importation

Importing or exporting drugs is illegal. Any person who possesses restricted drugs with intent to import or export drugs is committing a criminal offence. 

Drug Production

If you are involved in the production of a controlled drug, or can be linked to the production process, for example providing premises or equipment, and can be proved to have known a controlled drug was being produced, you can be charged with production of drugs.

Growing cannabis plants amounts to “producing” cannabis, even if this is for your own personal use.

When these drugs are prepared and ready for onward distribution, you may also be charged with possession with intent to supply. This may depend on the quantity and location of the drugs as well as the steps taken to make it ready for onward supply. 

 

Psychoactive substances (Legal Highs”)

It is an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, import and export psychoactive substances, and to possess a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution.

 

A mere allegation of a drugs offence can be enough to result in arrest or a voluntary interview. For a victim this can lead to protective bail conditions. For a suspect this can lead to restrictive bail conditions, a charge and a court case.

For suspects, police investigations and Court hearings can have a dramatic impact on day to day living. Access to the family home and to children is often restricted and any caution or conviction can affect employment as it would remain on the police national computer and may be disclosed on a DBS check.

Loopholes to consider

Below I have outlined this area of law and defences.

 

Loopholes are legitimate lines of defence that take into account all the small areas of law.

Loophole defences that may be appropriate to drugs offences may include:

  1. Can the drugs be proven as illegal? 

  2. Can you be proven to be in possession of them? Did you have knowledge and control of them?

  3. Can you properly be identified as involved in the incident? 

  4. Can supply or an intent to supply be proven? 

  5. Can you demonstrate that you are vulnerable and were pressured into the illegal activity by threats or force?

  6. Do you have witnesses to help prove your account?

  7. Do you have other evidence to help prove your account?

 

Good legal advice is essential at an early stage, contact me or email me richard@defencesolicitor.net.

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Controlled Drugs

Drugs are "controlled drugs" if they are specified as being of Class A, B or C.

 

Offences

Possession of Controlled Drug

Evidential and Charging Considerations

The offence of possession of a controlled drug is committed when a person is unlawfully in physical possession or in control of any substance and had knowledge of possession of the item, even if he did not know it was a controlled drug. This includes anything subject to his control, even if it was in the custody of another.

 

Defences in Section 28 of the Act

In relation to offences of possession (with or without intent to supply), production, supply, cultivation of drugs or the opium-related offences, it is a defence for the accused to show that:

  • He neither knew, suspected, nor had reason to suspect the existence of some fact that the prosecution is required to prove, for example that he was in possession of the drug.

  • He neither believed, suspected, nor had reason to suspect that the substance in question was a controlled drug.

  • That he believed the product to be a controlled drug, which had it been that drug, would mean that he would not have been an offence at the time that he committed it.

 

In deciding whether a defence is made out, the court will have regard to:

  • The credibility of any account given in interview - note the evidential burden on the defendant.

  • The circumstances in which the drug was acquired or possessed, including concealment.

  • The nature of any packaging.

  • Any observations on the defendant prior to him being stopped or arrested.

  • If a possession offence is alleged, proximity to the supplier.

  • Content of any exhibit - telephone messages, documents, labelling.

  • Relevant bad character - including previous non court disposals and informal warnings, if recorded and in an admissible format.

 

Supply/Possession with intent to supply/Offering to supply

Evidential and Charging considerations

Supply

Supplying includes distributing (section 37(1) of the Act) and does not require proof of payment or reward. A return of drugs to the original supplier would be supply.

 

Possession with intent to supply

The intent must relate to a future supply of controlled drugs. If the evidence points to past supply, a charge of supplying is more appropriate.

 

Evidence of intent to supply

An intention to supply may be proved by direct evidence in the form of admissions or witness testimony, for example, surveillance evidence.

Another method of proving an intention to supply is by inference. Evidence from which intent to supply may be inferred will include at least one or, more usually, a combination of the following factors:

  • Possession of a quantity inconsistent with personal use.

  • Possession of uncut drugs or drugs in an unusually pure state suggesting proximity to their manufacturer or importer.

  • Possession of a variety of drugs may indicate sale rather than consumption.

  • Evidence that the drug has been prepared for sale. If a drug has been cut into small portions and those portions are wrapped in foil or film, then there is a clear inference that sale is the object.

  • Drug related equipment in the care and/or control of the suspect, such as weighing scales, cutting agents, bags or wraps of foil (provided their presence is not consistent with normal domestic use).

  • Diaries or other documents containing information tending to confirm drug dealing, which are supportive of a future intent to supply, for example, records of customers' telephone numbers together with quantities or descriptions of drugs.

  • Money found on the defendant may be evidence of supply in the past but on its own the money is not evidence of a future intent to supply.

  • Evidence of large amounts of money in the possession of the defendant, or an extravagant life style which is only prima facie explicable if derived from drug dealing, is admissible in cases of possession with intent to supply if it is of probative significance to an issue in the case.

  • Extravagant lifestyle, but only when that is of probative significance to an issue in the case.

 

Offering/being concerned

In addition to the supply of a controlled drug, section 4(3)(a)-(c) of the Act creates offences of offering to supply, being concerned in the supply and being concerned in the making of an offer to supply.

An offence of offering to supply can be prosecuted simply by proving the existence of an offer. The prosecution does not have to prove either that the defendant intended to produce the drugs or that the drugs were in his possession. The offer may be by words or conduct.

 

Importation Offences

Section 170(1) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (CEMA) states:

"If any person ...

 1. knowingly acquires possession of:

iii) goods with respect to the importation or exportation of which any prohibition or restriction is for the time being in force under or by virtue of any enactment; or

 2. is in any way knowingly concerned in carrying, removing, depositing, harbouring, keeping or concealing or in any manner dealing with any such goods,

 

and does so with intent to evade any such prohibition or restriction with respect to the goods, he shall be guilty of an offence under this section and may be detained."

 

Section 170(2) of CEMA 1979 provides the "smuggling" offence:

"If any person is, in relation to any goods, in any way knowingly concerned in any fraudulent evasion or attempt at evasion
 

b. of any prohibition or restriction for the time being in force with respect to the goods
 

he shall be guilty of an offence under this section and may be detained."

 

Production Offences

Evidential and Charging considerations

An offence of production is committed when a suspect has some identifiable participation in the process of producing a controlled drug, by manufacture, cultivation, or any other method.

An offence of being concerned in the production of a controlled drug requires:

  • Evidence that a controlled drug was produced; and

  • Evidence of some link between the suspect and the production process, (for example providing suitable premises or equipment); and

  • Evidence that the suspect knew that a controlled drug was being produced.

  

Offences for occupiers or managers of premises

An occupier offence should be charged when the suspect is the occupier of the premises concerned, or is involved in its management.

A suspect is an "occupier" if, whatever his legal status, he has a degree of control which would enable the exclusion of other people.

 

A suspect is concerned in the management of premises if he runs them, organises them or plan the running of them.

 

The fact that the suspect is trespasser or squatter will not be a defence.

 

The suspect must knowingly permit (wilful blindness may be sufficient, but not mere suspicion), or suffer the taking place on those premises, of either the:

  • production or attempted production of a controlled drug; or

  • supply or attempted supply or offer to supply a controlled drug; or

  • preparing of opium for smoking; or

  • smoking of cannabis, cannabis resin or prepared opium.

 

County Lines

'County Lines' involves the exploitation of vulnerable young people and adults by violent gang members in order to move and sell drugs across the country.

The National Crime Agency has identified that there is growing evidence of city-based organised crime gangs extending their drug dealing activity into new areas, many of which are coastal towns. The gangs recruit vulnerable people, often children, to act as couriers and to sell drugs.

'County Lines' operates by gangs from cities, in particular London, introducing a telephone number in a new area to sell crack and heroin directly at street level. Potential buyers telephone the number and local runners are dispatched to make deliveries via a telephone 'relay or exchange' system. The 'runners' are invariably children, often boys aged 14 to 17 years, who are groomed with money and gifts and forced to carry out day to day dealing. Runaway and missing children are also used by gangs to expand inner city drugs empires into county towns. Children as young as 11 years of age have been reported as being recruited into the highly sophisticated gangs.

Gang members enter into relationships with young women in order to secure a location for drugs to be stored in the new area. In addition, violence is used against drug users to coerce them to become runners, enforce debts, and use their accommodation as an operating base.

 

Maximum Penalties

Possession of a controlled drug

Possession of a controlled drug is an either way offence. The maximum penalty depends on both the trial venue and the class of drugs.

Magistrates' Court

  • Class A drug: £5000 fine and/or 6 months' imprisonment

  • Class B drug: £2500 fine and/or 3 months' imprisonment

  • Class C drug: £1000 fine and/or 3 months' imprisonment

 

Crown Court:

  • Class A drug: Unlimited fine and/or 7 years' imprisonment

  • Class B drug: Unlimited fine and/or 5 years' imprisonment

  • Class C drug: Unlimited fine and/or 2 years' imprisonment

 

Possession with Intent to Supply

Possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply it is an either way offence. The maximum penalty depends on both the trial venue and the class of drug.

Magistrates' court:

  • Class A drug: £5000 fine and/or 6 months' imprisonment

  • Class B drug: £5000 fine and/or 6 months' imprisonment

  • Class C drug: £2500 fine and/or 3 months' imprisonment

 

Crown Court:

  • Class A drug: Unlimited fine and/or life imprisonment

  • Class B drug: Unlimited fine and/or 14 years' imprisonment

  • Class C drug: Unlimited fine and/or 14 years' imprisonment

 

Supplying Controlled Drugs

Supplying a controlled drug is an either way offence. The maximum penalty depends on both the trial venue and the class of drug.

 

Magistrates' court:

  • Class A drug: £5000 fine and/or 6 months' imprisonment

  • Class B drug: £5000 fine and/or 6 months' imprisonment

  • Class C drug: £2500 fine and/or 3 months' imprisonment

 

Crown Court:

  • Class A drug: Unlimited fine and/or life imprisonment

  • Class B drug: Unlimited fine and/or 14 years' imprisonment

  • Class C drug: Unlimited fine and/or 14 years' imprisonment

 

Importation or Exportation of Drugs Supplying Controlled Drugs

Importing or exporting a controlled drug is an either way offence. The maximum penalties are set out in Schedule 1 of CEMA 1979.

Producing Controlled Drugs/Cultivating Cannabis

Producing a controlled drug and cultivating cannabis are either way offences. The maximum penalty depends on both the trial venue and the class of drug.

Magistrates' court:

  • Class A drug: £5000 fine and/or 6 months' imprisonment

  • Class B drug: £5000 fine and/or 6 months' imprisonment

  • Class C drug: £2500 fine and/or 3 months' imprisonment

 

Crown Court:

  • Class A drug: Unlimited fine and/or life imprisonment

  • Class B drug: Unlimited fine and/or 14 years' imprisonment

  • Class C drug: Unlimited fine and/or 14 years' imprisonment

(The penalties for cultivating cannabis under s.6 of the Act are identical to those shown above for producing a Class B controlled drug.)

 

Occupier Offences

Occupier offences are either way offences. The maximum penalty depends on both the trial venue and the class of drug.

 

Magistrates' court:

  • Class A drug: £5000 fine and/or 6 months' imprisonment

  • Class B drug: £5000 fine and/or 6 months' imprisonment

  • Class C drug: £2500 fine and/or 3 months' imprisonment

Crown Court:

  • Class A drug: Unlimited fine and/or 14 years' imprisonment

  • Class B drug: Unlimited fine and/or 14 years' imprisonment

  • Class C drug: Unlimited fine and/or 14 years' imprisonment

Drugs offences are never straightforward. Good legal advice is essential at an early stage, contact me or email me richard@defencesolicitor.net.

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email: richard@defencesolicitor.net

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​​​​© Richard Bayliss Freelance Solicitor 2021