Jump to. The sentences quoted in this table are maximums only and are not reflective of sentences given in the majority of drug offences, for more guidance on this issue please go to our section on sentencing.
UK drug policies have come under attack from ministers within the coalition government, with senior Liberal Democrats saying current rules are "nonsensical" and arguing for a "smarter approach" to the problem. They point to a Home Office report which suggests "no apparent correlation" between the "toughness" of a country's drug laws and the level of drug use - but a Tory MP said the Lib Dems had "hijacked" the report for political gain. Penalties are most severe for Class A drugs like crack cocaine and heroin, and least severe for Class C drugs like khat and anabolic steroids. Producing or supplying a Class A drug can be punished with life imprisonmentwhile there is a year maximum term for Class B and C.
The legal restrictions placed on the use of controlled drugs are aimed at preventing drug misuse. The principal offences relating to the misuse of controlled drugs are contained in the Misuse of Drugs Act "the Act" and most of the offences dealt with in this guidance are created by the Act.
There is separate guidance available on Inchoate Offences elsewhere in the Legal Guidance. The primary objective of the Act is the control of the use and distribution of dangerous and harmful drugs. The Act classifies the drugs according to their relative degree of overall harm from misuse.
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. Potential buyers telephone the 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. A 'County Lines' typology has been produced setting out the approach of the police and the CPS to 'County Lines' offending, including the safeguarding of vulnerable persons, and the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences. Prosecutors are encouraged to consider all available charges when considering a prosecution in connection with 'County Lines' offending.
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The Modern Slavery Act may provide opportunities to consider the circumstances of 'County Line' offending, particularly where there has been deliberate targeting, recruitment and ificant exploitation of young and vulnerable people. Prosecutors should, however, be alert to the challenge of securing a conviction for a Modern Slavery Act offence. Controlled drugs can also be specified as being a drug or the derivative of a drug pertaining to a chemical base and its variations used to bring more than one drug under the legislation.
Convictions relating to temporary class drugs will attract levels of punishment similar to those for Class B drugs under the Act, with the exception of simple possession not an offence under TCDO provisions. A TCDO enables the HS to control, for a period of twelve months with provision for the order to be renewed thereafterany substance s which is not already controlled and which is being or is likely to be misused, and that misuse is having or is capable of having harmful effects.
The powers of arrest, search and seizure for temporary class drug offences are similar for those drugs that are scheduled under Parts I, II or III of Schedule 2 to the Act. It is for the prosecution to prove that a drug is controlled at the time that the offence was committed. Difficulties are often experienced as a result of the lack of such evidence at an early stage in the case.
Subject to specific provisions below, cases which are being committed or transferred to the Crown Court or being tried in the magistrates' court must have a statement of a suitably qualified person giving evidence of the nature of the drugs in the case. In heroin and cocaine cases, the statement should give the weight of the drugs examined. This is to assist the court in passing sentence, in accordance with the Sentencing Council's Drug Offences Definitive Guideline.
In a charge of possession, where it is averred that a particular drug is not controlled by virtue of an exception contained in Regulations made under section 7 1 a of the Act, the burden of proving that the drug falls outside the exception is upon the prosecution and not the defence.
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The forensic analyst should deal with the situation clearly if it appears that there is any possibility of the drug falling into an excepted category. Where the evidence that a substance is a controlled drug is served in the form of a streamlined forensic report SFR or analyst's summary, prosecutors should seek to agree the content of that report or summary by way of formal admission at an early stage in the proceedings. All substances suspected to be controlled drugs must be sent to a forensic science laboratory unless they are seizures of cannabis which includes cannabis resin but not cannabis hash oil.
Having regard to Rule 3 of the Criminal Procedure Rules, where an offender has not confirmed the identification of the drugs in interview, admission of this fact by the defence should be sought at an early stage in the proceedings. Visual identification is also appropriate in cases which are likely to result in a charge, but only where the offender has admitted that the substance is khat in a PACE interview and the matter is likely to result in a guilty plea at court.
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Khat is not as common as cannabis and tends to be concentrated in certain areas and communities. Prosecutors should take care to ensure that identification is made by a law enforcement officer who regularly encounters khat and therefore can easily identify it by its appearance. Where no such visual identification can be made or where the suspect denies the suspected offence sthe case is going to proceed to court, and it is anticipated that the defendant will plead not guilty, a forensic service provider must be asked to identify the drug as khat.
Guidance has been issued to forensic science providers by the Home Office to assist them with the identification of khat. The offence of possession of a controlled drug is committed when a person is unlawfully in physical possession or in control of any substance or product specified in Parts I, II or III of Schedule 2 of the Act and had knowledge of possession of the item even if he did not know it was a controlled drug.
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This includes anything subject to his control, even if it was in the custody of another. Section 37 3 of the Act provides that possession includes things subject to the defendant's control, which are in the custody of another. A person found in possession of one form of drug, believing it to be another form of drug should be charged with the substantive offence of possession of the actual drug. He should not be charged with attempted possession of the drug he believed it to be. It england cocaine for the purposes of the Act, see R v Russell 94 Cr. R In relation to offences of possession with or without intent to supplyproduction, supply, cultivation of drugs or the opium-related offences, it is a defence for the accused to show that:.
In R v Lambert  2 ACthe House of Lords held that the defendant only bears an evidential burden in drug to calling evidence that he lacked the requisite knowledge, belief or suspicion - it is for the prosecution to prove by reference to the available evidence that he lacked knowledge, belief or suspicion. It is the second of the three defences cited above that will be most frequently encountered. In deciding whether the defence is made out, prosecutors may wish to have regards to:. In addition to the general public interest factors in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, please refer to the contents of the Ministry of Justices Simple Cautions for Adult Offenders guidance, and to refer to Cautioning and Diversionelsewhere in the Legal Guidance.
A prosecution is also usual for the possession of more than a minimal quantity of Class B or C drugs. Police Officers and Prosecutors should take into the general public interest factors listed in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. In deciding whether it is in the public interest to prosecute an adult offender for an offence of simple possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use, including where the person believes in its assistance in alleviating medical conditions, prosecutors should consider the aggravating and mitigating factors for the possession of a legal amount of cannabis for personal use below.
Types of drugs
The aggravating factors for the possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use include:. The mitigating factors for the possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use include:.
Home Office Circular provides further detail about the re-scheduling of cannabis-based products for medicinal use in humans. In deciding whether it is in the public interest to prosecute an offence of the simple possession of khat, a Class C drug, prosecutors need to have regard to whether National Policing Guidelines on Khat Possession for Personal Use Intervention Framework have been followed.
The Psychoactive Substances Act defines 'psychoactive substance' and makes it 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.
The Psychoactive Substances Act came into force on 26th May Fentanyl is a highly toxic synthetic opioid. It is controlled as a Class A drug. It is also prescribed as a pain killer or used as an anaesthetic under a medical practitioner's supervision.
Effects include euphoria, drowsiness, confusion, sedation, respiratory depress and arrest, unconsciousness, coma and death. Fentanyl is approximately 50 times more potent than heroin and times more potent than morphine.
Amphetamines (including dexamphetamine)
As little as 0. The high potency of Fentanyl greatly increases the risk of overdose, particularly where a person who uses drugs is unaware that a powder or pill contains Fentanyl. Fentanyl sold on the street can be mixed with heroin or cocaine, which amplifies its potency and potential dangers. There are a of Fentanyl analogues. The analogues are compounds with a similar structure to Fentanyl but with varying potency. Not all of the analogues are a controlled drug. Where an analogue is not a controlled drug, it must be proven to be a psychoactive substance see Psychoactive Substances guidance.
The strength of Fentanyl, or its analogues, should be ascertained by forensic testing. Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is sold as a powder; spiked on blotter paper; mixed with or substituted for heroin; or as tablets that mimic other, less potent opioids. Fentanyl can be swallowed, snorted, injected or put on blotter paper and placed in the mouth.
There has been a ificant increase in the availability of Fentanyl on the drugs market as a result of bulk production in China and on-line sales, including sales on the dark-web. Seizures of Fentanyl powders have ranged from milligram to kilogram quantities.
The seized powders may be relatively pure or mixed with one or more substances including commonly used cutting agents such as mannitol, lactose, and paracetamolas well as heroin and other opioids. Prosecutors must ensure that the correct offence category is charged and present evidence to the court that lower quantities of Fentanyl may still constitute a very serious offence.
This will ensure that courts are able to impose appropriate and just sentences.
The prosecutor should bring to the court's attention evidence of the impact of the offending on an individual or a community and the aggravating and mitigating features of the case being considered. The dangers of Fentanyl, even in small quantities, should be brought to the attention of the court.
It may be appropriate for the expert witnesses to be present at the sentencing hearing, in order to assist the judge with questions about the potency of the Fentanyl. The court should be provided with a statement from an experienced drug expert witness who fully understands the issues pertaining to fentanyl or its analogues.
The drug expert witness's statement should provide figures which set out a method of calculation to demonstrate scale when comparing fentanyl with illicit heroin. The prosecution should highlight the sentencing range within the Sentencing Council's Drug Offences Definitive Guideline and provide indications of the seriousness of the offence to allow the imposition of an appropriate sentence.