q + a




newq + atestingarticlesbooksexperienceslinks
[Contents][Appendix 1]
[Reference 13][Reference 15]

E for Ecstasy by Nicholas Saunders
Appendix 1: Reference Section

14 Interview with Greg Poulter, advice team leader at Release, a London information agency for drug users, on 16/2/93
In the 1970s there was a scare in Britain about hallucinogenic amphetamines before they had even reached the country. The Government responded by classifying the entire chemical family as Class A drugs, before any other country had done so. The Home Office can issue licenses for research into MDMA. There is no pressure group lobbying to liberalise the law on MDMA, as there has been for cannabis.

The maximum penalty in a Crown court for possession of MDMA is 7 years and/or an unlimited fine. For supply of MDMA, the penalties in a Crown court, where such cases are normally heard, can stretch to life imprisonment, an unlimited fine and the seizure of all assets.

In line with Scotland's distinct legal system, the law on MDMA is applied differently there to the rest of Britain. In Scotland, anyone found in possession of MDMA is prosecuted, even if they only have very small quantities. But in England and Wales, and especially in London, the trend is towards cautioning. There is a big difference between 'possession' and 'supply' in the kind and severity of penalties imposed, but no fixed cut off point. People found in possession of only one E have been prosecuted for supply, on the strength of other evidence that they were dealers. Magistrates courts normally deal with possession cases. The usual fine is #15 to #100 for a first offence and for the lowest income groups; #25 to #200 for two different drugs and an increase of some 25% for a second offence. But courts vary in the penalties they impose. Country courts where drugs cases are uncommon probably give the highest sentences; city courts the lowest. Fines are now worked out on a Unit Fine System which is related to the offender's disposable income. Magistrates courts don't generally differentiate between Ecstasy and Amphetamine, even though they are in different classes, but Crown courts do.

Prosecutions on the grounds of supply are nearly always heard in a Crown court. As a general rule, imprisonment is the penalty for those found guilty unless there are mitigating circumstances. For small amounts, offenders are typically sentenced to 18 months to 2 years imprisonment; and for medium quantities the sentence may be 3-5 years. Sentencing also depends on the particular circumstances of the case: one person got 3 years for 3 LSD tablets but there was evidence that he had sold a tablet of LSD to someone who had died as a result of taking it.

The trend towards cautioning offenders is spreading throughout the country. Poulter's advice to those who are arrested is as follows: Ask for a solicitor. Legal assistance is free to people who have been arrested. Police often suggest that suspects admit that what they have been found with is a drug and offer, in exchange, to recommend a caution. However, they may not keep their word. A local solicitor who knows the police can help to avoid this. If police arrive with a warrant, cooperate or you will be charged with an extra offence. But you should ask them for a copy of the warrant and the reason why they are searching.

Police must have reasonable cause for stopping and searching a member of the public. This would not include simply being in a place where drugs have been on sale. They have the power to strip search. If police attempt to strip search you ask them why they are doing it. If their grounds were not legal, the evidence so obtained will be dismissed by the court. Never resist a search physically. Keep calm and negotiate with the police. Intimate search - which includes looking inside any part of your body including the mouth and ears - is only admissible when there is reason to suspect intent to supply class A drugs. If youare intimately searched in the genital or anal area on grounds that are not legal, you could charge the police with indecent assault. You cannot be compelled to give blood or urine for testing.

Recently Ecstasy has been on sale at #8-#12 per pill. In real terms, prices of illicit drugs have fallen steadily over the years without a fall in quality, with the exception of Amphetamine which is now far weaker than it was a few years ago.

Release operates a telephone help line for people accused of drug offences. The agency receives about 21,000 calls a year, of which some 14% are related to Ecstasy. 30% of calls come from non-users such as parents or professionals. About half concern legal matters, and the other half concern the use of drugs and their effects.

Poulter also told me, incorrectly, that Class A drugs cannot be prescribed by doctors and that the maximum penalties in a magistrates court for unlawful possession of MDMA or for supply of MDMA, are 6 months in prison and/or a #2,000 fine. In fact, doctors may prescribe Class A drugs, but may not prescribe Schedule I drugs, a category into which MDMA also falls, while the maximum penalty in a magistrates court is #5,000.

[Contents][Appendix 1]
[Reference 13][Reference 15]
E is for Ecstasy by Nicholas Saunders (
HTMLized by Lamont Granquist ( index
Spiritual book index