Around 55,000 adults were sentenced for drug-related offences in 2010. So today’s new guidelines on drug offences from the Sentencing Council have the potential to affect many. On an initial review we have concluded that they are a bit of a mixed bag.
On the plus side, age or lack of maturity is included as a mitigating factor in sentencing. This could mean that some younger people face less punitive sentences. Drug possession (including possession of Class A drugs) might also attract a fine in some circumstances. Used sensibly, this might result in a modest reduction in the use of custody.
Those who are convicted of drug trafficking offences might also face more lenient sentences if they can demonstrate that they were forced into the act, or were unaware of what they were carrying.
On the other hand, the guidelines point to tougher sentences for those convicted of producing or cultivating drugs.
Overall the Council estimates the aggregate effect of the changes will be neutral.
In its official announcement today the Council claims that although ‘primarily aimed at criminal justice professionals, the guideline is specifically designed to be accessible and clear to the public.’
Take a look at the guidelines and judge for yourselves.