The Practical Lawyer


Sentencing – drugs offences

An unduly lenient sentence was imposed by the trial judge following D’s third drugs conviction. D’s previous criminal record had significant consequences for him such that s110 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 came into play.

The offences constituted a third drug conviction, therefore s110 applied. This means a mandatory minimum term of at least seven years (subject to up to 20% credit for a guilty plea), unless in its opinion the court finds there are particular circumstances relating to the offences or the offender which would make it unjust to pass such a sentence.

The trial judge said it would be unjust to apply s110 and passed lower sentences, despite his initial view that he must apply s110 (he was persuaded to change his mind by D’s counsel). His reasons were thus: D had been released from custody to the Birmingham area where he had previously been involved with drugs, and he felt he had little choice but to offend to reduce his drugs debt. Furthermore, even with a reduction for the guilty plea, the application of s110 would result in a long sentence for a 20-year-old man serving his first significant prison sentence. The judge had also received a letter from D expressing his regret.

The CA disagreed, and found the judge’s reasons for not applying s110 to be ‘wholly inadequate’. The minimum sentence provisions applied, and there were no circumstances sufficient to justify departure from this. Anyway, quite apart from the minimum term provisions, D’s drugs offending would have attracted a sentence of at least seven years’ custody before considering any credit for a guilty plea. R v Usherwood [2018] EWCA Crim 1156. Source:


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