Lawtons Solicitors has a specialist team operating in the complex area of the law associated with drug offences.

The prices of drugs charged at street level in the UK are some of the highest in Europe, meaning the UK illegal drugs market is extremely attractive to criminals. The commercial distribution of drugs is by far the most lucrative stage in the process, from the cultivation and production of the illicit drug to the point of final consumption. If you are found guilty of supplying or possessing illegal drugs, the penalties are harsh and the consequences life-changing.

Whilst drug dealing and the supply of drugs are not considered to be such serious offences as drug trafficking, both criminal offences still carries a significant sentence and will inevitably impact on every aspect of your life. As in all drug offence cases, the punishment and subsequent consequences will depend on aggravating factors, including the defendant’s culpability, plus the quantity and type of the drug associated with the offence.

The complexity of the law and consideration of many aggravating factors means it is advisable to seek expert legal advice as early as possible in police investigations to ensure your case is considered in detail and that the most favourable result, in the circumstances, is obtained on your behalf.

Drug offences and the law

The law in the UK regarding dealing or supply of drugs surrounds the intention of passing a controlled substance to someone else. This means that even if you are simply passing a cannabis cigarette joint between friends, you can be found liable and face serious consequences.

The intention (whether for personal use only, which must be proven) and classification of the drugs supplied will influence whether the magistrates’ court or crown court will deal with your case.

Drugs offences are categorised as ‘either-way’ offences, meaning cases can be heard in either court and vary greatly in severity. Magistrates make the initial decision about whether a case is sufficiently serious to be heard in the crown court or will remain in the magistrates’ court.

The Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA)

The Misuse of Drugs Act  – also known as the MDA – governs the penalties for the possession and supply of drugs in the UK, based on the class the drugs belong to.

Criminal offences committed under the Misuse of Drugs Act include:

  1. Possession of a controlled drug
  2. Possession with intent to supply another
  3. Supplying another with a controlled drug
  4. Offering to supply another with a controlled drug
  5. The production, cultivation or manufacture of controlled drugs
  6. The import or export of controlled drugs
  7. Allowing premises you own, occupy or manage to be used for the consumption of certain controlled drugs, or supply or production of any controlled drug

The Act specifies sentences for possessing and supplying drugs as below:

Drug Class Possession Supply
Class A 7 years, plus a fine Life, plus a fine
Class B 5 years, plus a fine 14 years, plus a fine
Class C 2 years, plus a fine 14 years, plus a fine


Controlled drugs such as amphetamines, barbiturates, methadone and mild tranquilisers can be prescribed by a doctor for medical use. In such cases their possession is not classified as illegal.

Drug classes

The Misuse of Drugs Act specifies three classes of illegal drugs:

  1. Class A drugs:

Heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, methadone, methamphetamine (crystal meth), magic mushrooms

  1. Class B drugs:

Amphetamine (other than methamphetamine), barbiturates, codeine, ketamine, synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice and cannabis, cathinone derivatives, including mephedrone

  1. Class C drugs:

Anabolic steroids, mild tranquilisers, benzodiazepines, GBL and GHB, khat and BZP

Supplying drugs

The offence of supplying drugs will be separated into one of five categories by law:

  1. Actual supply
  2. Aggravated supply that has surrounding circumstances
  3. An offer to supply
  4. Involvement or concern in supply
  5. Possession with intent to supply

The overall sentence will also be determined by factors such as the quality and quantity of drugs and whether dealing has been cited as part of a larger operation.

In a larger operation, the court will then assess what role you have taken – that of leadership, significant or lesser involvement – to determine your sentence.

The starting point and maximum penalty for an offence of supplying drugs will be determined by what ‘class’ of drug was involved. There is a range of sentencing options that the court should have regard to when it is considering what punishment to impose. The court must give its reasons if it is going to stray outside the range and therefore it is rare that the court will give a sentence outside the appropriate range.

What should you do if you are accused of drug offences?

If you have been charged with a drug offence you should immediately seek expert legal advice. To help you through the process, it is best to gain legal advice from specialist drug offence solicitors as soon as possible so that all the contributing factors leading up to a police investigation are considered and can be presented fairly in court.

The team of drug offence solicitors at Lawtons is best placed to offer you the necessary support and guidance every step of the way.

If you need expert legal advice on issues relating to drug offences, contact us to see how we can help you achieve the best outcome in your case.


See below for a list of case studies relating to defending clients accused of drug offences:


Damage limitation for client with drugs supply offences– October 2017

Client from St Albans caught supplying drugs avoids immediate prison sentence– June 2017

Mother caught with drugs given suspended jail sentence at St Albans Crown Court– February 2015


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