Home > Swift, certain, tough: new consequences for drug possession.

United Kingdom. Home Office. (2022) Swift, certain, tough: new consequences for drug possession. London: Home Office. CP 723.

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This paper sets out the government’s proposals for important changes to how the UK criminal justice system tackles adult drug possession offences in England and Wales. Tiers 1 and 3 may also apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland, which will be determined in due course.

1. Drugs are illegal for a reason. They are harmful, affecting both physical and mental health, relationships, career prospects, and wider society. Individuals who use socalled recreational illegal substances must understand that they are not only risking their health, but funding dangerous criminals who rely on fear, exploitation and violence.
2. This white paper sets out a tough, escalatory framework aimed at adults caught in possession of low levels of so-called recreational drugs. It includes a combination of proposals for legislation, as well as broader areas for reform. We invite consideration and response via a public consultation which can be found under Annex A or alternatively via the online consultation. Access the online consultation here.
3. At its heart, this white paper is concerned with reducing demand for drugs and reversing the rising trend in drug use so that within a decade, overall use is at a historic 30-year low. This white paper is an important part of government’s work to achieve this aim but does not represent all of it.
4. We are proposing reforms to strengthen the response of policing and the criminal justice system to drug possession offences. A new three-tier framework will apply to all drug users, except where users have a drug dependence, (described by Dame Carol Black as a chronic health condition), and treatment is the most relevant intervention. Our ambition is to bring about large-scale behaviour change and our vision is for the framework to be operated at scale with swift, clear and certain consequences.
5. Consequences should be tough, but they should also be fair and meaningful. Where appropriate, all first-time drug possession offenders should receive a tier 1 intervention. A second drug possession offence will attract a tier 2 intervention, and a third offence will receive a tier 3 intervention. These are as follows:
• Tier 1: A person should be issued with a fixed penalty notice as an alternative to prosecution, which requires them to attend and pay for a drugs awareness course. If they do not attend the course, they will pay an increased financial penalty. Failure to pay will result in the fine being registered at court for enforcement or prosecution for the original offence.
• Tier 2: Instead of being charged, a person would be offered a caution which would include, where proportionate, a period of mandatory drug testing alongside attendance at a further stage drugs awareness course.
• Tier 3: A person would likely be charged for their offence. On conviction, a new civil court order could be applied for which would enable the court to impose the following conditions: (i) exclusion order; (ii) drug tagging; (iii) passport confiscation; and (iv) driving licence disqualification.
6. In addition, this white paper proposes some important changes to powers for drug testing on arrest to ensure the police can drug test a wider variety of individuals.

Item Type
Publication Type
International, Report
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Crime prevention, Policy
July 2022
Identification #
CP 723
56 p.
Home Office
Corporate Creators
United Kingdom. Home Office
Place of Publication
ISBN 978-1-5286-3615-5
Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department by Command of Her Majesty.
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