Release welcomes the opportunity to respond to this Consultation process. Release provided a detailed submission to the previous consultation carried out by the Sentencing Council (‘SC’) in 2011, as well as participating in stakeholder meeting. That submission had a significant impact on the final Guideline as outlined here.
We have a number of concerns related to the current draft proposals, the main ones being:
- The introduction of new characteristics to determine “leading role”, in our opinion the proposed activities are not indicative of this role but can occur in any part of the supply chain and so should be introduced as aggravating factors;
- The proposal to change the sentencing powers for Category 4 Importation Offences – this seems wholly disproportionate and a significant departure from what is accepted practice in this area, even before the introduction of the 2012 Guideline;
- The changes in thresholds for Ecstasy tablets appears to be a reaction to the emergence of high quality MDMA tablets in the last few years, however there is still a range of purity with some tablets containing little of the active ingredient or at least much lower quantities than are presumed here;
- One of the major changes since the 2012 Guideline has been the scheduling of cannabis based medicinal products as Schedule 2 controlled drugs. However, access to these medications are severely limited due to lack of availability on the NHS and private prescriptions being financially prohibitive, meaning people have to turn to the black market. This inequity should be addressed in the Guideline.