Sentencing for drug offences - reminder to contribute to consultation

The consultation on the Sentencing Council’s draft guideline on drug offences will close on 20 June and with this date approaching, the Council is keen to encourage legal professionals with experience or an interest in the subject to contribute their views.

The new guideline applies to both the Crown and magistrates’ courts with the aim of encouraging a consistency in approach to sentencing drugs offenders. It covers the most commonly sentenced drug offences including importation, production, supply, permitting premises to be used for drugs offences and possession. It will mean sentences will be based on the court’s assessment of the harm caused and the culpability of the offender as demonstrated by the offender’s role in the offence and the quantity of drugs involved or scale of the operation.

Despite some newspaper reports to the contrary, the Sentencing Council is not planning to change sentencing in relation to supply offences, other than in two specific areas. The draft guideline does not propose any reduction in the high sentences currently given to drug dealers – where an offender involved with class A drugs profits, whether financially or otherwise, prison is the only option the draft guidelines allow. It also reflects current sentencing practice in relation to “social supply” offences where individuals procure drugs for themselves and friends at no profit or benefit to themselves.

The proposed changes relate to sentencing for some importation and production offences. The Council is proposing that sentences for drug mules, who may be coerced or misled into carrying drugs, are reduced, although sentences remain custodial for all but the most minor importation offences. Drug barons playing a leading role in large scale smuggling will continue to face long prison sentences. The Council is also proposing to adapt sentences for those involved in the cultivation of cannabis to reflect the changes taking place in the way the offence is committed and to ensure that the toughest sentences are available for those responsible for running such operations.