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Drugs And The Law In The UK

April 18, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 224

A significant risk factor with any drug use in the UK is the potential legal consequences of that use. Most substances are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Within this there are three classifications, Class A, Class B and Class C. Class A drugs are considered to be the most dangerous, and attract the most severe penalties. The classifications for specific, commonly-used drugs will be looked at in the next section.

Put simply, the Misuse of Drugs Act creates offences around possession and supply / production, with maximum sentences as follows:

Class A Drugs: Possession: seven years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine;Supply: life imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Class B Drugs:Possession: five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine;Supply: fourteen years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Class C Drugs:Possession: two years and/or an unlimited fine;Supply: fourteen years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Whilst the maximum sentences outlined above are severe, in reality, around 20% of those convicted actually receive a custodial sentence, and even fewer of these actually go to prison. Nearly 75% of fines are for £50 or less. Unlawful possession is the most common drugs-related offence which results in conviction; around 85% of all drug offenders are convicted of this offence. Many offences, if charged, are tried in magistrates' courts, which have lower maximum sentences than other courts.

The potential legal consequences of possessing or supplying various substances can be very serious indeed, and in cases where tough sentences are handed down (which does happen in areas where police and courts are taking a hard line), there can be serious negative implications for the offender's liberty, financial situation, and criminal record. Whilst it is important to make people aware that these consequences are a real risk, it is equally important not to employ 'shock horror' tactics, and to acknowledge the relatively low likelihood of severe penalties being imposed for, as an example, the possession of a small amount of cannabis.

There is every chance that the majority of the population will already be aware of the likelihood of receiving a caution for involvement in substance use or misuse, and pretending otherwise may undermine the perceived credibility of a support offered or drugs education programmes.

In the main, focusing more on personal choices and reasons why people may choose to use (as well as reject) drugs may resonate more with people than will a strong focus purely on legal consequences.

Matt Hayman is Founder and Director of Innovation with Substance CIC Ltd a UK based not for profit company providing substance misuse training and consultancy services to public and private sectors.

Source: EzineArticles
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