In the light of the change in classification for cannabis, the police have changed their guidance on dealing with cases of possession for personal use.
Should you be interested you can download the document from here.
In describing aggravating circumstances where officers may want to escalate the way they deal with the offences the guidance outlines a number of examples.
- Smoking in a public place (in which they include in the street and in a youth club).
- Where there is a locally identified policing problem which “may include a disorder ‘hotspot’ in an area (public park, local shops, public house, near schools or where young people frequent) that generates frequent calls for service to deal with anti-social behaviour.”
- To protect young people.
- For persistent offenders.
The guidance asks officers when escalating the action they’re taking to have a number of questions in their mind:
- What impact will the decision to issue a Cannabis Warning or PND have on the offender?
- Does this person understand the seriousness of this offence?
- Will this person benefit from this course of action?
- Will this person take any heed of a Cannabis Warning or PND Notice?
- Is there any evidence of previous convictions or offending behaviour that may show that they have little regard for the law?
Where the offender is 17 years old or younger the guidance is explicit:
Young People aged 17 years of age, or under, cannot be given a Cannabis Warning or a PND for possession of cannabis.
If there are local partnership agreements (Local Education Authority) in place, these will take precedence over these guidelines. The ACPO Guidance for Policing Drugs in Schools – ‘Joining Forces’ – offers further advice on this aspect of responding to cannabis possession.
This is fleshed out in the FAQ chapter:
Can I give a person who is 17 years old, or under, a Cannabis Warning or a PND?
No. Section 65 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 requires that such young people be considered for a reprimand, final warning or prosecution. However, that does not mean officers have to arrest at the time in order to seize the cannabis. The officer could decide to take the young person home to the protection of their parent or guardian. Taking this action would not prevent a later warning or reprimand being given or a prosecution being started, at a later date.
However, if that is not possible and the officer has no reasonable alternative, then the officer should have no difficulty justifying that an arrest is necessary in such cases.
Do I still have to arrest a person that is 17 years old or under?
There is no longer a recommendation that such young people must be arrested. The officer will have to justify that an arrest is necessary. However it is recognised that very often an arrest will be necessary to obtain the admission/evidence required for the final warning scheme. If this were necessary the officer would be justified in making an arrest.
What if a 17 year old and a 19 year old are smoking cannabis together?
The officer must look at the circumstances of each individual. It must be decided in each individual case that the action taken is both necessary and proportionate. Officers may have to deal with them differently i.e. Arrest one (17 years) and warn the other (19 years)
If the age difference was greater, say a 16 and 21 year old, it could also be decided that the 16 year old has been unduly influenced by the 21 year old, and arrest both.
Filed under: cannabis, police