Section 4 Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
There are several offences connected with the supply of drugs. The main offences are:
- Actual supply
- Aggravated supply
- Offer to supply
- Being concerned in supply
- Possession with intent to supply (Section 5(3) MDA 1971)
It is an offence to supply a controlled drug to another. In order to establish guilt, the prosecution need only show that the defendant transferred the physical control of a controlled drug to another. It is not important whether the defendant made a profit or benefited in any way, although this will be reflected in sentencing. Supply can therefore range from passing a joint between friends to large scale supply of crack for profit.
This offence came into force on 1 January 2006. This requires the court to treat a supply offence as ‘aggravated’ if certain conditions are met which are thought to increase the seriousness of the offence.
The relevant conditions are:
The offence was committed on or in the vicinity of school premises at a relevant time; or An under 18 year-old was used as a courier in the commission of the offence.
Where someone is found guilty of aggravated supply, the court should ensure that the sentence given reflects the seriousness of the offence and so sentences will be longer or more onerous than for instances of simple supply.
Offer to supply
This offence may occur even where an individual offers to supply a controlled drug but in fact supplies a substance which is not controlled.
Concerned in supply
Two further supply offences exist under the 1971 Act, namely:
Being concerned in the supply of a controlled drug; and Being concerned in the making to another of an offer to supply a controlled drug.
In order to establish either of these offences, the prosecution must prove:
The supply of a drug to another or the making of an offer to supply a drug to another, and;That the defendant was involved in the supply or offer to supply, and;That the defendant knew the nature of the enterprise, namely that it involved the supply or offer to supply drugs.
Possession with intent to supply
It is an offence for a person to have a controlled drug in his possession, whether lawfully or not, with the intent to supply it to another. This offence is known as possession with intent to supply.
A person charged with possession with intent to supply can enter a plea of guilty to the charge of possession and not guilty to supply, on the grounds that the drugs seized were for personal use. At this point the prosecution may adduce evidence to attempt to prove guilt. Prosecutions for this offence may be based on circumstantial evidence, statements made by the defendant at the time of arrest and expert evidence.
Examples of relevant circumstantial evidence would include the possession of drug supply paraphernalia such as scales, bags, Clingfilm and large sums of unexplained cash. The manner in which the drugs were wrapped could also be used as evidence of intent to supply, or to support the defendant’s case (if the offence is denied) that the drugs were for personal use.
Statements at the time of arrest can be important. For example, a young person who is caught in possession of 2 ecstasy tablets and tells the police, ‘I was holding them for a friend,’ could face a charge of possession with intent to supply.
In many cases the prosecution case will be built largely on the quantity of drugs seized, on the basis that the quantity was so large that it could not have been for personal use. Expert evidence can be crucial in such cases, to help the court to determine whether this is the case.
Penalties available for supply offences
The severity of the penalty applied in relation to drugs offences will depend on the individual circumstances of the case. The different types of supply charges are all subject to the same maximum penalties but please note these are the maximum sentences only and in most cases will not be reflective of the sentence given.
Class A – life imprisonment or a fine or both
Class B – 14 years’ imprisonment or a fine or both
Class C – 14 years’ imprisonment or a fine or both