Similarities and differences in Controlled drug Legislation

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Classification of Controlled Drugs

In a brief comparison between United Kingdom and Greek Legislation regarding Controlled Drugs some similarities or/and differences could be identified. First of all, in United Kingdom there are two categories used to classify Controlled Drugs. The first one, as it was already mentioned in the legislation part, was established by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and divides such dangerous substances into three classes A, B and C (in descending order of severity) for the purposes of imposing penalties in criminal law convictions. The second classification of these drugs was made by the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 which determines five schedules related to how harmful a controlled drug is with Schedule I including the most dangerous substances.

On the other hand Greek legislation (Law 1729/1987) classifies only four lists - tables of these drugs (Tables A, B, C and D) with substances involved in Table A to be controlled by the State (cannabis, heroin, LSD, MDMA), Table B contains substances whose handling is the exclusive right of the State Drugs Monopoly (cocaine, methadone, morphine), amphetamines and codeine in Table C can be handled by authorized or licensed individuals and finally the Table D which allows pharmacists to take place in their supply (barbiturates, tranquillisers, buprenorphine).

Moreover in Greece, the penalty or sentence to the accused person is independent to drug type and the Magistrate's court has to consider the category of the drug substance in order to serve the sentence to the user (Law 2161/1993). Opposite UK legislation links penalties to drug type and any sentences or penalties are served with respect to the related laws.

Illegal possession of Controlled drugs

Illegal possession of Controlled drugs is another issue which is treated in a different way in these two countries. According to the UK legislation the first factor needed to be investigated in case of an offender is whether the Controlled drug is intended for personal use or for supply. In order for either the Magistrate's or the Crown court to release its final decision, the Drugs Act 2005 introduced the idea of determining an amount, above which the possession of a Controlled drug will be constituting an indication for further supply. Penalties are again linked to the drug class and have been analytically referred to the legislation topic (different confrontation for possession and possession with intent to supply).

In Greece, the authorities first examine whether the offender is an addict or not and then the laws are applied respectively. Illegal possession of Controlled drugs by addicts compels them to follow a treatment plan (purgation of drug-addiction) according to the Article 13 of the Law 1729/1987. If they do not agree to follow this plan then they have to suffer the consequences and the sentences provided by the legislation. Article 12 of the same Law states that sentence of imprisonment is attributed to lawbreakers who are not drug addicts and this sentence depends on the controlled drug quantity. Possession of small quantities of drugs is punished with up to one year imprisonment and the payment of a fine defined from the court whereas possession of large quantities of drugs is punished with imprisonment varying from 5 to 20 years. Small and large quantities are determined in the Article 5 of the modified Law 1729/1987, Amendment - Law 3189/2003).

Illegal drug trafficking

Although there is a different classification system in these two countries, generally it could be said that sentences in Greece are more strict than in the United Kingdom. So in Greece, the classification of the controlled drugs for defining a sentence to the offender has to do with the quantity of the drug. In case of the sale of a small quantity for personal use the sentence comes up to 6 months imprisonment or the payment of a fine as an alternative solution. Any illegal trafficking of larger quantities is punished with at least 10 years imprisonment (small and large quantities are analytically defined in the Articles 5, 6 and 8 of the Law 2191/1993 - amendment of Law 1729/1987). Moreover when public officials are mixed into illegal drug trafficking then the sentence increases in at least 10 years and worse when recidivists, professionals or weapons users are involved they are then punished with up to life imprisonment. Once more the authorities examine if the drug trafficking becomes from addicts or non-addicts as there is again a different confrontation. Addicts can be punished from 1 to 5 years imprisonment for drug trafficking for first time (misdemeanour) or up to 10 years if they have a "heavy" background (felony). Non- addicts are punished with a sentence of imprisonment from 6 months to 5 years for supplying controlled drugs to other users (Law 2721/1999 - amendment).

Moving to United Kingdom it should be mentioned that the authorities do not only examine the quantity found during drug trafficking but they focus on the drug class. So different penalties and sentences are applied for Class A, B and C Controlled drugs varying from up to life imprisonment for Class A drugs and up to 14 years imprisonment for Class B and C drugs (Misuse of Drugs Act / Schedule 4). If there is any evidence that it is for the third time that the same person traffics in Class A drugs, then there is a minimum sentence of seven years imprisonment unless the court considers that this decision is unfair for the offender.

Legal aspects of controlled deliveries

In both countries there is no specific legislation on Controlled drug deliveries. In United Kingdom there are some associations which, apart from their other activities and aims they have, they are also related to the management of deliveries of Controlled drugs around UK and moreover they oversee their import and export across UK frontiers. These associations are listed below:

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO)

Identity and Passport Service (by Home Office) (IPS)

The Border and Immigration Agency (by Home Office) (BIA)

All the above associations coordinate when required in order to avert illegal aspects (e.g. illegal commodity, quantity or other destination of Controlled drugs) and they are responsible not only for deliveries of Controlled drug substances but for any kind of goods (SOCA, 2010).

In Greece the management of Controlled drug deliveries is an exclusive right of the Hellenic Police in coordination with the State and the apposite ministry (Ministry of Citizen Protection). When needed the Special Anti-terrorist Unit is also implicated and operates all around Greece and abroad (Ministry of Public Order Press Office, 2004). Other associations such as Interpol, Europol or the Department of the SIRENE - Schengen Information System might be used in order to disarticulate illegal deliveries of Controlled drugs. In the end, Unit of Police Dogs is a special unit that uses well trained dogs and has lots of successful missions on drugs during the last few years (Hellenic Police - Ministry of Citizen Protection, 2010).

Threshold quantities for personal possession offences

As it was said earlier, UK legislation focuses especially on the Controlled drug class for determining the relevant sentences or penalties (that does not mean that the drug quantity is not taken into consideration) whereas Greek legislation, of course bothers about the class of the drug but besides deems the quantity found on the offender really important as well. Hence an amendment contained in the Article 15 of the Law 3727/2008 states the different amounts of Controlled drugs which separate the possession for personal use and the possession with intent to supply. Some of these substances of this classification are cannabis, heroin and cocaine. For example a quantity of 2.5g (or less) of cannabis resin (or up to 20g of herbal cannabis) is considered that it is intended for personal use. Similarly for heroin and cocaine a quantity of 1.5g of these drugs or less according to the law is intended for personal use. Any other quantities above these limits are intended to supply (as Law 3727/2008 states) and different penalties or sentences are accordingly applied.

Precursor trafficking penalties

Relating to that topic both Greece and United Kingdom tend to follow similar guidelines that have been established by the European Union Instrument and have been adopted and approved by the constituted countries. So according to the Articles 2 and 4 of the Council Framework Decision 757/JHA which was taken in Brussels in 2004, the minimum amounts on the components of criminal acts and penalties were determined in order sentences to be attributed when illegal drug trafficking occurs. Sentences usually range from 1 to 5 years imprisonment and can be longer (5-10 years) when manufacture, transport or any distribution of forerunners is proved to be intended for either illegal production or manufacture of Controlled drugs and furthermore this action is proceeded by a criminal organisation. The Article 3 of the same Decision considers that the provocation and encouragement to commit as well as any aid support or help to endeavour the above (manufacture, transport or distribution of precursors that are intended for illegal actions) is deemed criminal and national laws are then responsible for determining the sentences.