Cannabis and the internal Policing Conflict


5 January 2018

By Elizabeth Bradshaw

Whilst being caught with cannabis can carry a five year prison sentence as well as a fine equating to between 75% to 125% of someone's weekly income, new guidance is advising Officers on the ground not to execute a Stop & Search when picking up on the smell of cannabis.

This guidance has lit the fire in relation to clear disagreement on this guidance within the force.

The College of Policing was established in 2012 to act as a professional body who works for the Police Service in England and Wales and to work independently of the Home Office. Across the 43 forces in England and Wales the College of Policing have a remit to set standards for these forces through training, development and skills.

The Police Force will be pleased to note that the Home Office has suggested an extra £450 million will be pumped into their services in the next financial year, however, various individuals within the Police Force have displayed strong disagreement in respect of the recent guidance on Stop and Search surrounding cannabis.

Chief Constable Andy Cooke expressed his opinion opposing the guidance stating that "The guidance in my view is wrong and the law does not preclude it.

“Smell of cannabis is sufficient to stop search and I will continue to encourage my officers to use it particularly on those criminals who are engaged in serious and organised crime." He also added that he will continue to encourage his Officers to carry out Stop and Search on cannabis suspects.

The Official document stated that "Other factors could include the person’s behaviour or demeanour, a current drugs marker on the vehicle, specific intelligence about the person or the presence of drugs paraphernalia" and that "Officers should consider and record all of the information available to them, including their own observations of suspicious behaviour, not just the smell of what they believe to be cannabis." The guidance outlines that Officers dealing with a group of individuals smelling of cannabis that a stern warning that gaining a criminal record may have an impact on their future is the appropriate disposal decision and that this would be better than a Stop and Search which is governed by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 Code A.

On the other side, David Raynes of the National Drug Prevention Alliance said: “This guidance is clearly wrong in law and it is plainly wrong in terms of common sense but police have a problem with small scale drug possession."

As Defence Solicitors this guidance is encouraged as a pragmatic view will act to reduce the numbers of youths being filtered through the system for possession offences which have a large impact on their lives as a result of those consequences. Equally so it can be argued that the arrest and detention procedure does deter youths from committing further offences in the future.

No matter the guidance in any event Gepp and Sons LLP will always be able to provide clear and professional advice at the Police Station for any criminal offence for free under the Police Station Advice and Assistance regulations and if you require our assistance or have any queries do not hesitate to contact us.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues. 

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