Whats New Drugs Info Legal Research Links Email
Some articles have not been moved to our new site yet.
As a result you have been redirected to our old site.
If you wish to return to our new site - click here.

Force Policy to Destroy Evidence (Cannabis Plants)

Since cannabis was reclassified to Class C, we at IDMU have noticed a worrying trend amongst the various police forces of destroying all cannabis plants other than the "sample"plants sent for forensic analysis, stating that if was "force policy"to do so. Forces which have recently quoted such a policy include South Yorkshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Avon & Somerset.

We are alarmed at this development, and the effect this will have on persons charged with offences concerning cannabis plants. We have 15 years experience of dealing with cannabis production/cultivation cases and preparing expert reports in this area. On most occasions have been able to inspect the bulk of plants stored by the police, normally in locked garages, and in at least one force a purpose-built dry-room at force headquarters. Our normal practice during an inspection of exhibits has been to select a number of plants from the bulk of plants, which are then stripped, separated into leaf and flower material, and then weighed for an independent determination of yield. This allows us to assess whether the Crown's sample plants were indeed representative of the crop. Obviously, if the bulk of plants has been destroyed, it is impossible to verify or challenge the Crown yield upon which the prosecution case is based.

In a recent Merseyside case (seizure Jan, trial Nov 2005), despite inadequate photographic evidence, the "sample" plants sent for forensic examination appeared clearly unrepresentative of the bulk of plants present, leading to a gross overestimation of potential yield. In court, defence counsel sought to have the case thrown out due to destruction of the core evidence in the case, thus preventing the defendant from having a fair trial. However at Liverpool Crown Court HHJ Holloway ruled that the dispute over yield was a matter for evidence, and refused to stay proceedings using his judicial discretion. The police had argued that preservation of the plants was impossible due to health and safety considerations.

The practice of destroying evidence (plants) seems to be a recent innovation following the reclassification of cannabis, a similar case arose recently in South Yorkshire where the Crown were unable to rely on yield extrapolations from a single sample plant.

We recognise that in large scale cultivations it may be impractical to preserve all of the plants in a viable state. This is why we have made the compromise recommendations below.

In the interests of justice we would urge the following action, if you are a solicitor acting for a defendant arrested in circumstances which could lead to charges of unlawful cultivation or production of cannabis, or possession with intent:

1. The police be served with a written notice requiring the preservation of all plants, or sufficient plants from the bulk to make a reasonable selection, until trial proceedings have been concluded:

(a) It is important that such a notice be served immediately upon arrest, as plants may well be destroyed before a defendant is charged following a lab report.

(b) Plants should be cut off at the base of the stem above the roots, and placed in paper sacks. Root systems of sample plants may be preserved separately under appropriate labels, remaining root samples may be destroyed if necessary, however any plant labels should be retained.

(c) Where less than flowering 20 plants have been seized, all should be preserved

(d) Where more than 20x flowering plants have been seized, to minimise any decomposition:

(i) plants over 100cm tall should be placed in individual paper sacks,
(ii) plants 60-100cm tall can be placed 2 to a sack,
(iii) plants 40-60cm tall can be placed 3 to a sack,
(iv) plants 20-40cm tall can be stored 5 to a sack, and
(v) plants under 20cm tall can be stored 10 to a sack.
(e) Paper sacks containing plants should be stored in a well-ventilated area, allowing them to dry out naturally, and must not be enclosed in plastic or other impermeable materials.
2. As defence solicitor you should be permitted to select sacks containing up to a total of 10x flowering plants from each significant cultivation batch to be preserved for defence examination and yield determination. This would be equivalent to a ČB  sample in drug testing cases. The remaining sacks of plants may then be destroyed if deemed necessary.

3. If the defendant is not charged with production or possession with intent, (e.g. cultivation and/or simple possession only) and/or if the matter is dealt with early by way of plea, and/or there is no dispute as to yield, destruction of plants may be permitted at an earlier stage in proceedings.

4. In any event, destruction of plants or other evidence should never be undertaken without leave of the court.
All contents of this web site & any links to other sites etc, is for educational & research purposes. IDMU at no time seeks to encourage illegal activities. All sections of this site and its contents are protected under copyright laws. © IDMU Ltd 1994 - 2008