Tag Archives: prison sentence

The potential consequences of a drug importation allegation

It is common for officers at airports and other ports of entry to intercept people carrying controlled drugs in their luggage, clothing or inside their bodies on behalf of suppliers in foreign jurisdictions. The colloquial term for such a person involved in drug importation is a ‘mule’. They may have been pressured into carrying the drugs or have done so for a fee, or both.

On occasion large quantities of drugs are found.  Sometimes it is merely the leftovers from a holiday or business trip abroad.  This may have occurred at a location where drug use is more widely tolerated by law enforcement than it is in the United Kingdom.

Committing the offence of drug importation can however result in severe consequences.

drug importation

The crime of drug importation

Drugs are brought into the jurisdiction in a number of supposedly ingenious ways.  For example, cocaine may be moved in its liquid form while disguised as something else.  Drug ‘mules’ may swallow a number of pellets containing drugs of different kinds.

Naturally, the police and associated organisations are frequently uncovering these methods as they arise.  This results in those who take the risk and are caught being charged and sent to prison for a significant term.  This will be despite initial thoughts that the police or customs officers have been outwitted.

Which laws would I break?

The underlying offence is the breaching of the prohibition on the importation and exportation of controlled drugs.  This is created by Section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This prohibition is paired with the substantive offence.  This is contained in Section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

The maximum penalties

The maximum penalties for the offence of drug importation will vary depending on the type of drugs in question:

  • Class A, life imprisonment;
  • Class B and C, 14 years’ imprisonment;

Sentencing for drug importation

Various factors will alter the sentence imposed upon someone who either pleads guilty or is found guilty of this offence. These include:

  • the role played by the individual in the activity
  • the amount and character of the substance in question
  • their level of co-operation with the police.

The sentences here are generally heavy.  Prison almost always follows for even the smallest quantity of drug.  Sentences of between ten and twenty years, or even more, are common where the quantity is large.

There are however a large number of factors that might reduce the seriousness of the offence or provide valuable mitigation.  It is essential that you choose a solicitor who will properly explore these on your behalf to ensure a proper reduction in sentence.

Case studies

In Gregory [2012] EWCA Crim 649, the appellant’s sentence of imprisonment was reduced from 8 years to 6 years.  This was drug importationbecause the original sentence did not sufficiently reflect the appellant’s relatively minor role and the fact that he believed he was carrying cannabis rather than cocaine.

Conversely, the appellant in Burns [2009] EWCA Crim 1123 received an increased sentence upon a reference by the Attorney-General.  In this case the sentence increased from 8 years to 14 years’ imprisonment.  This was said to better reflect the fact that he had abused his professional role as a distribution supervisor by allowing cocaine importations.

There is a comprehensive sentencing guideline that judges will use in order to decide sentence.

How we can help in drug importation cases

drug importationSuch offences are always serious.  Expert representation at the earliest stage is highly desirable, particularly if you may have acted under duress and have the basis of a defence in law. Sadly, many already very vulnerable people are caught up in drug importation.  It is essential that your story is told.

If you are to be spoken to about an allegation of drug importation then the first thing you must to is take advantage of our free and independent advice in any interview under caution.  We will be able to give you initial advice that might help with the direction of the case.

The benefits of such early legal advice can be found here.

If your case is to go to court then we will make sure that your best case is before a jury at trial.  Alternatively we will ensure that mitigation is obtained and properly presented on your behalf in order to make sure your sentence properly reflects your involvement.

A number of reasons why you might want to instruct VHS Fletchers over other firms can be found here.

You can find your nearest office by following this link and all of our phone numbers are answered 24 hours a day, every day of the year, to ensure that we provide you with emergency advice when you most need it.

drug importation legal representation

Alternatively you can use the contact form below.




Defending an allegation of stalking

stalkingNew offences of stalking (in addition to the existing offences of harassment) were introduced by Parliament relatively recently in 2012. The offences are harassment which involves a course of conduct that amounts to stalking.

There are two offences.  These are stalking involving fear of violence and stalking involving serious alarm or distress.

What is stalking?

There is no strict definition, but the legislation lists a number of behaviours associated with stalking:

  • following a person
  • contacting or attempting to contact a person by any means
  • publishing material relating to a person or purporting to come from them
  • monitoring a person’s use of the internet, email or communications
  • loitering
  • interfering with any property in the possession of a person
  • watching or spying on a person

The list is not exhaustive.  Nor is behaving in one of these ways automatically stalking.  Context is everything in such offences.

 What must the prosecution prove in a stalking case?

  • That there is a course of conduct
  • which constitutes harassment, and
  • the course of conduct amounts to stalking.

Additionally, for the offence involving fear of violence it must be proven that:

  • the conduct causes another to fear that violence will be used against him; and
  • which the defendant knows or ought to know will cause another to fear that violence will be used against him.

stalkingThe test as to whether a suspect “ought to know” these things about their conduct is whether a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think that the course of conduct would cause the other to fear violence.

It is an offence if conduct amounts to stalking and causes another to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used.  Alternatively, it will be an offence if the conduct causes serious alarm or distress and this has a substantial effect on a person’s day to day activities.

This could mean that they have to, for example:

  • change a route they normally use
  • move home
  • change the way they socialise.

It could also mean a change to a person’s physical or mental health.

Are there any defences to stalking?

It is a defence to show –

  • the course of conduct was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime
  • the course of conduct was pursued under a rule of law
  • that any conduct was reasonable

stalkingAdditionally, for the offence alleging a fear of violence offence, it will be a defence if the course of conduct was reasonable for the protection of the defendant or another, or for the protection of their or another’s property.

What sentence could I get for stalking?

stalkingFor the basic offence of stalking the maximum sentence is six months’ imprisonment.

For the offence causing fear of violence or serious alarm or distress the maximum sentence is 10 years imprisonment for an offence on or after 2 April 2017.  The maximum sentence is 5 years for offences committed prior to that date.

A restraining order to protect the victim from further contact can also be imposed.  This could be the case even where a defendant is found not guilty of the offence.

Seek early advice from an expert in criminal law

These are serious allegations.  The law is complex.  As a result, if you are arrested or know that the police wish to speak to you about an offence then make sure you insist on your right to free and independent legal advice.

As experienced defence solicitors we know that there is always another side to the story, let us tell that for you.

The advantages of early advice legal advice can be found here.


If you have already been interviewed or face court proceedings we can still make a real difference to the outcome of your case.  Legal aid may well be available to fund your defence at court.

We have offices across the East Midlands.  You can find your most convenient office here.   Alternatively you can contact us using the form below.