Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from David Calvert-Smith QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, to the Clerk of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 26 February 2002.

  I have now had an opportunity to consider the evidence given by Bob Ainsworth to the Committee on the issue of whether it is desirable to refine the legal definition of "supply" to differentiate between "dealing" and "social supply". I agree with Mr Ainsworth that any attempt to define dealing or supply based on a given quantity is likely to be extremely problematic, for the reasons he articulated.

  As you know, once a case is received by the Crown Prosecution Service it is reviewed in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. Once a prosecutor is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction, then the public interest factors set out in the Code are considered.

  The prosecutor will also take account of a range of factors set out in the CPS Prosecution Manual when making the decision as to the correct choice of charge. In determining whether the appropriate charge is Possession with Intent to Supply as opposed to simple Possession, the prosecutor will consider the amount of the drug in the defendant's possession. However, our policy has long been that this is not a conclusive indicator, although it is recognised that large quantities are likely to be more consistent with supply than personal use. The prosecutor will, in addition, consider other factors such as the variety of drugs found, evidence that the drugs were prepared for sale, other evidence of preparation, evidence of large amounts of money in the possession of the defendant and evidence from diaries and other documents.

  Our experience of prosecuting drugs cases is that through the correct application of the Code for Crown Prosecutors and the guidelines contained within our guidance manual, prosecutions relating to drug offences are on the whole working effectively. I am not aware of a groundswell of evidence indicating the contrary. On many occasions, it will be a fine decision for the jury to take as to whether it is satisfied that the evidence does prove intent to supply. Whether or not the defendant is a dealer is generally not an issue for the jury to determine, although the judge will distinguish between dealers and social suppliers in the sentence passed following conviction.

  On balance, I am still of the view that the best approach is for the jury to focus on weighing the evidence tending to demonstrate intent to supply, rather than simple possession as opposed to this issue being determined with reference to an arbitrary amount.

March 2002

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