Drugs and the Law

If you get arrested ...

  • Be polite. If you are rude or angry, it won’t hurt the police a bit but it might affect how they treat you. Being polite may get you home faster.
  • Call an adult. It is the law that if you are under 17, the police cannot officially interview you or caution you without ‘an appropriate adult’ being there – like your parents, guardians, social worker or even a teacher you know well. If that adult is not there, any evidence you give doesn’t count.

You don’t have to say anything or sign anything till the adult turns up. It is also your right to call the duty solicitor who will make sure you are treated fairly.

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If you are arrested get the police to tell you your rights.

Classification of Illegal Drugs

Illegal drugs are classified in three different categories and, to a certain extent, what happens to you if you get arrested in possession of a drug depends on the type drug which you are found with and whether the police think that the drug is just for your own use or that you selling it to others.

  • Class A drugs are the most harmful and include heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD.
  • Class B drugs are less dangerous than Class A but still are still harmful and include speed, cannabis, mephedrone and some amphetamines
  • Class C drugs are the least dangerous but are still illegal and include ketamine, GHB and some tranquillisers


Why are young people put into custody (locked up)?

Custody is usually given to young people who have been found guilty of committing a very serious offence. The court can give you this kind of sentence if:

  • your crime is so serious there is no other option
  • you have committed bad crimes before
  • the judge or magistrate thinks you are a risk to the public

What happens when you are sent to custody?

When you are given a custodial sentence, you won’t be sent to an adult prison, but to a special secure center for young people.

Types of custody for young people

There are three types of custody for young people:

  • young offender institutions
  • secure training centres
  • secure children’s homes

How the decision is made about where you are sent?

This will depend on your age, whether you are a boy or girl, what needs you have and on where you live. You will be sent to a secure center that:

  • can manage your needs safely (for instance, if you have a history of drug use, or if you have been in custody before and found it difficult)
  • is suitable for your age
  • is as near to your home as possible
An organisation called the Youth Justice Board decides where you will go. They make this decision based on information given to them by the youth offending team and other youth justice workers.

If you are Caught with Drugs

If you are caught with drugs in your pocket or bag then you can be charged with possessing drugs even if the drug is not yours! If you are under 17 years of age then the police can inform your parents about your arrest.

If it is considered that you are dealing in drugs e.g. selling drugs to others, then the sentences you will receive will be much more severe.

The punishment that you will receive will depend on whether you are accused of:

  • possessing a drug or dealing in drugs
  • on the type of drug that you are carrying
  • whether you have been in trouble with the police before.

If it is Class C drug and you have no previous criminal history, you will normally get a formal warning at the police station. On the other hand if it is a Class A or B drug and you have a history of drug offences you will face a much more severe punishment.

The maximum sentences for carrying drugs depends on the class of drug that you are caught with and are:

  • Up to seven years in prison or an unlimited fine (or both) for Class A drugs
  • Up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine (or both) for Class B drugs
  • Up to two years in prison or an unlimited fine (or both) for Class C drugs.