10 August 2010

Cannabis: B but no PND says the Met PC

It's just got more confusing on the cannabis front. The Metropolitan Police is reported to be abandoning the use of Penalty Notices for Disorder (PNDs) in a number of London Boroughs. This was reported in the Evening Standard and then on the BBC.

These powers had been used for a number of offences such as shoplifting and drunken behaviour. But the use with which we are interested here is there use for second offences for cannabis possession.

The current ACPO guidelines on handling cannabis possession, since cannabis moved back to Class B, was that for a first offence, the person should be given a "cannabis warning." As part of an escalating series of responses, second cannabis offences aren't meant to be given a cannabis warning but should have resulted in a Penalty Notice for Disorder. A third offence would then mean arrest and charge, and a resultant criminal record.

It is not immediately clear if the decision to abandon PNDs will extend to cannabis enforcement. If it does, the decision could be good news or bad news as regards cannabis enforcement (depending of course on your point of view).

The BBC reported a Met Police spokersperson as saying "We are seeing if there is a more effective way to deal with them, such as through cautions, through the courts or, in minor cases, words of advice."

Given that cannabis users already receive "words of advice" in the form of cannabis warnings already, it doesn't seem likely that further "words of advice" will be offered to people repeatedly found with cannabis. So it seems more than likely that for second and subsequent offences, arrest and charge, and court action look more likely.

We have written to ACPO to seek clarification on this important issue. more news as it happens

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