Trafficking in Dangerous Drugs 80% Rule


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In August 2013 the Government introduced mandatory sentencing for trafficking.

Trafficking in dangerous drugs is defined as carrying on the business of selling dangerous drugs.  The sentencing regime provides that if a sentence is not suspended, the offender must serve 80% of the sentence.

The removal of the Court’s sentencing discretion is something that should be treated with some trepidation. The imposition of the 80% rule has meant the Court can only properly reflect the plea of guilty in two ways.

Firstly, the head sentence being reduced to such an extent that serving 80% is the same time that would normally be served on a sentence prior to the introduction of the 80% rule. The second option, which in our experience is the method more regularly employed, is to suspend the sentence to appropriately reflect the plea of guilty.

One of the founding principles of sentencing is to ensure a just punishment, in all the circumstances, is imposed. Accordingly, if the criminality of the offending is too serious for a head sentence of five years, then the Court has little option but to enforce the 80% rule. However, the biggest problem with the imposition of five year suspended sentences, is that commonly those offenders addicted to drugs are being set up to fail. Five years is a long time for a drug addict to avoid committing any offence punishable by imprisonment.  In my opinion, drug addicts require the support and supervision provided for parole. Unfortunately, due to the 80% rule, a drug trafficker will only be subject to parole for the final 20% of the sentence.

It is unfortunate that the courts are hamstrung by this piece of legislation. It is a clear vote of no confidence in the sentences imposed by the courts for trafficking. That opinion is unfounded and an affront to the judiciary. The rehabilitation of offenders is critical not only to that offender but also to the community. The 80% rule is a significant hurdle for both the courts when sentencing and the offender’s rehabilitation attempts.

Written by: Elliot Boddice


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