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New sentencing guidance for Drug Offences

The Sentencing Council has issued new Sentencing Guidelines for Drug Offences to those convicted who are 18 or over.  These Guidelines will be relevant to any person who is sentenced on or after 27 February 2012.

The Guideline covers the following offences:
• Importation Drug Offences (aka. Fraudulent evasion of a prohibition by bringing into or taking out of the UK a controlled drug (Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (section 3) and Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (section 170(2))
• Supplying or offering to supply a Controlled Drug (Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (section 4(3)) and Possession of a controlled drug with the intent to supply it to another (section 5(3))
• Production of a Controlled Drug (Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (section 4(2)(a) or (b)) and Cultivation of cannabis plant (section 6(2))
• Permitting premises to be used (Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (section 8)
• Possession of a controlled drug (Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (section 5(2))
The full guidance can be viewed straight away by simply clicking on the following link –
http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk/docs/Drug_Offences_Definitive_Guideline_(web).pdf

The best way to demonstrate the use of the new Guideline is to provide examples of them in action, see below:

Example 1

Supply of Controlled Drugs to a friend

Person 1 and Person 2 are students sharing a flat at university. They are regular club goers where they sometimes take Ecstasy, which is classed as a Class A Controlled Drug, and share the cost between them. On this occasion, Person 1 contacts the person they have previously bought drugs from and arranges to meet him. He buys 20 ecstasy tablets to share with his friend – they have contributed the same amount. He is arrested before he has the opportunity to meet with his friend but admits that they both provided the money and they would have shared the drugs.

In using the new Guidelines the court will first of all be aware that the maximum penalty available to this offence is Life imprisonment, though the range of sentencing options the court have is from a Community Order to 16 years custody.
The court will turn to page 10/11 of the Guidelines to Step One to assess Person 1’s role and harm caused.  The Court is likely to find that he has a ‘lesser role’ as the case will not involve any financial gain is on a non-commercial basis.  In addition the Court will find that this offence is consistent with a ‘Category 4’ offence based on the quantity being only 20 tablets.

The Court will then turn to page 12 to Step Two to identify the Starting point for the purpose of sentence and the range recommended.   For a ‘Category 4’ and ‘Lesser Role’ Person 1 is facing a starting point of 18 months’ custody with the bottom of the range as a high level community order and the top of the range three years’ custody.

The further factors then taken into account by the Court can be found at pages 14 and 15.  These considerations include whether Person 1 has any previous convictions, failure to comply with current court orders, their age and maturity etc.

Example 2

Supply of Controlled Drugs on the streets

Person 1 is arrested in a car in a cul-de-sac.  Police find three bags of cocaine, which is classed as a Class A Controlled Drug, weighing 115 grams worth between £4,840 and £6,500.  On a search of his home address police find substantial evidence of commercial dealing e.g. crushed paracetamol which is often used as a cutting agent and numerous strips of torn plastic bags which are often used to wrap cocaine when selling in street deals and his mobile phone also shows regular coded transactions.

In using the new Guidelines the Court will first of all be aware that the maximum penalty available for this offence is Life imprisonment, though the range of sentencing options the court have is from a Community Order to 16 years custody.

The Court will turn to page 10/11 of the Guidelines to Step One to assess Person 1’s role and harm caused.  The Court is likely to find that he has a ‘leading role’ due to the evidence of ‘organising buying and selling on a commercial scale and expectation of substantial financial gain’.  In addition the Court will find that this offence is consistent with a ‘Category 3’ offence based on the fact that Person 1 is selling directly to users.

The Court will then turn to page 12 to identify the Starting point for the purpose of sentence and the range recommended.   For a ‘Category 3’ and ‘leading role’ Person 1 is facing a starting point of a term of imprisonment of 8 years and 6 months with the bottom of the range as 4 years  6 months imprisonment to 7 years 6 months imprisonment.

The further factors then taken into account by the court can be found at pages 14 and 15.  These considerations include whether Person 1 has any previous convictions, failure to comply with current court orders, their age and maturity etc.

If you have any questions about the above or we can be of any assistance to you with this or any other legal query please do not hesitate to contact us.

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