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Possession of a Controlled Drug

Date Produced: 14 February 2012
Title: Drugs
Offence: Possession of a controlled drug
Legislation: Section 5 (2) Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
Mode of Trial: Either Way
Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty: Class A 7 years, Class B 5 years, Class C 2 years, Or a fine or both

The definitive drugs guideline comes into place on 27 February 2012 and applies to all drug offences sentenced after that date.

The route to sentence:- 

Step 1  

Category 1  

Class A

Category 2 

Class B

Category 3 

Class C

Step 2 - starting point and category range


  • The starting point applies to all offenders irrespective of plea or previous conviction.
  • For drug dependent defendants or those who use regularly a community order with a drug rehab  requirement can be a proper alternative to a short or moderate length sentence 

Category Range (applicable to all offenders)

Category 1

Class A 

Starting Point: Band C fine
Category Range: Band A fine-51 weeks

Category 2

Class B

Starting Point: Band B fine
Category Range: Discharge-26 weeks

Category 3

Class C

Starting Point: Band A fine
Category Range: Discharge-medium level community order

The sentencing starting point is adjusted up or down by a list of additional aggravating and mitigating factors set out in the guideline. Described as a non exhaustive list it may on occasion be appropriate to move outside the identified category range. The guideline emphasises that possession of drugs in prison is likely to result in an upward adjustment.

Aggravating Features

  • Statutory aggravating factors
  • Previous convictions
  • Offence committed on bail
  • Other aggravating factors
  • Possession of drug in prison 
  • Presence of others, especially children and/or non users
  • ossession of drug in a school or licensed premises
  • Failure to comply with current court orders
  • Offence committed on licence
  • Attempts to conceal or dispose of evidence, where not charged separately
  • Charged as importation of a very small amount
  • Established evidence of community impact

Mitigating Features

  • No previous convictions or no relevant or recent convictions
  • Remorse
  • Good character and or exemplary conduct
  • Offender is using cannabis to help with a diagnosed medical condition
  • Determination and/or demonstration of steps having been taken to address addiction or offending behaviour
  • Serious medical conditions requiring urgent, intensive or long term treatment
  • Isolated incident
  • Age and/or lack of maturity where it affects the responsibility of the offender
  • Mental disorder or learning disability
  • Sole or primary carer of dependent relatives

Step 3

consider factors which indicate a reduction such as assistance to the prosecution

Step 4

reduction for guilty plea

Step 5

totality principle where sentencing for more than one offence or the offender is already serving.

Step 6

confiscation and ancillary orders; including POCA, forfeiture orders and destruction orders

Step 7

reasons/explanation for sentence

Step 8

consider time spent on remand in custody or bail.

Ancillary Orders



Forfeiture orders

Destruction orders

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