This client guide has been prepared in response to numerous queries from clients who have approached us having been dissatisfied with the advice that they have received from other sources when they have been prosecuted for cannabis cultivation offences.
What Happens If You Do Not Challenge The Police Experts Report?
Through word of mouth and our reputation we have a large number of clients approach us after they have sought advice elsewhere.
Often this will be at the appeal stage. By then, the damage would often be done. Cases will have been poorly prepared and the assumptions, yield estimates and valuations relied on by the prosecution will not have been challenged. Consequently, as the sentencing guidelines are based on a tariff system which reflects the quantity or yield produced by an operation combined with an assessment of the “sophistication and degree of involvement of the offender” individuals are sentenced to longer terms then they would have been.
In a recent case before the Court of Appeal, the problems that arise when cases are not properly prepared was graphically illustrated.
The Appellants pleaded guilty to separate cases in cultivating cannabis. The police raided their homes and discovered a small home grown operation with between 6 and 10 plants involved. The defendants pleaded guilty. The court accepted that they were producing cannabis for personal consumption only and not for distribution.
The court in their judgement at paragraph 11, stated “in production cases it is output or the potential output which counts.. at the time of drafting these guidelines, such evidence as there was suggested that many cases seem to involve an output of about 28 to 40 gram, or an ounce to an ounce and a half to the plant”.
The Court went on to rely on guidelines figures for the indicative quantity of the output they believed would be produced from each plant. They sentenced the defendants on the basis that they believed they were obtained for example:-
1.47kg from 7 plants
1 1/3 kg from 6 plants
What is particular disturbing is that there is no reference to any independent expert and forensic analysis to challenge these assumptions in the report of the case produced by the Court of Appeal. Reducing the yield figures may have led the cases to be categorised differently and the appellant’s lawyers would have had a stronger argument that their clients should have avoided custody.
First of all, we have a detailed and in-depth knowledge of the drugs market. We know that the price for controlled drugs fluctuates and varies depending on numerous factors including:-
Where in the country it is sold
The quality and strength
The relationship between the buyer and seller
Law enforcement policies
There is a huge difference in the market value of certain strands of skunk with a high THC content and field cannabis that has been imported or poorer quality home grown material.
Often we find that the police do not distinguish correctly between the value of the different strains i.e. skunk and herbal and will include in their estimates leafs as well as herbal cannabis. Consequently, the valuations relied on by the police, which are critical in sentencing, are often grossly inflated.
Often by reducing the value of the total cannabis discovered by the police as accepted by the court and it is likely that you will receive a lesser sentence.
Unlike many other lawyers practising in this area, we always instruct forensic experts to comment on the conclusions relied on by the Prosecution when presenting their case to the court.