Drugs in Prisons and the effect on Sentencing
With many offences, the punishment may vary according to the context of the criminality. For example, violence in a domestic context is usually treated more harshly than the same level of harm against a stranger. The same is true for drugs case, especially when it comes to drugs in prisons.
A failure to understand this basic point can result in clients being given incorrect advice about the likely sentence. An attempt to ‘over mitigate’ and suggest an unrealistic penalty can often backfire. This is because the court loses sight of other better points made in mitigation.
Recently, a man pleaded guilty to taking three relatively small drugs packages into prison, at the request of his cousin. The packages contained cannabis resin, cannabis bush and 20 steroid tablets.
In passing sentence, the judge observed that anyone involved in smuggling items of this sort into a prison commits an offence that passes the custody threshold by a significant degree.
He also relied upon the previous authorities of the Court of Appeal. He said that it had been made abundantly clear that;
“the smuggling of drugs into prison undermines the order of our custodial institutions and causes problems for those who are responsible for supervising prisons and looking after the welfare of inmates.”
That is a view with which the appeal court re-endorsed on this occasion.
What happened in the appeal?
When considering a sentence of 18 months’ imprisonment, the advocate on appeal sought to invoke the drugs sentencing guideline. When that guideline is applied in isolation, it suggests that a sentence of 18 months is manifestly excessive.
Under that guideline, this offence would fall into the significant role Category 4 part of the guideline. Therefore, the starting point should have been a high-level community order.
The Court of Appeal rejected that submission, and made the following observations:
“The drugs guidelines are of course helpful in sentencing offences of this sort, but the reality here is that the mischief is bringing the drugs into prison. That is a very significant aggravating feature and whilst we rely upon the guidelines for some assistance, they cannot determine the final prison sentence to be imposed. In the view of this court, this falls way outside the range which [Counsel] has identified to us today.
The taking into prison of drugs is pernicious. It causes discipline problems within any custodial institution; it endangers the safety of the inmates and staff and adds greatly to the burden of trying to impose discipline.
In the view of this court, having been given full credit for the plea, which he had entered at the earliest opportunity, the total sentence of 18 months cannot be said either to be wrong in principle or manifestly excessive, reflecting as it does a total sentence for three separate offences of bringing different items into prison on this occasion.”
All of our advocates understand the guidelines and broader sentencing considerations. We can be relied upon to obtain the best result for all of our clients.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email email@example.com. Let us help.
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.