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Fake drugs and festival-goers

Three years ago, a man was sentenced to a 3 years custodial sentence at Teeside Crown Court for the sale of cocaine, which was in fact washing powder. In that case, the sentencing Judge warned that “anyone selling Class A drugs to the public would receive a very substantial sentence, as would people ripping off buyers with fake drugs.” Since this case, the sale of fake drugs, in particular at festivals, has been on the rise.

This blog explores the offences that individuals who sell such ‘fake drugs’, might be charged and the potential consequences they may face.

It is more and more common for festival-goers seeking to buy drugs to in fact be offered fake drugs; from washing powder, crushed “Plaster of Paris” powders, to vitamin tablets, the practice of selling fake drugs is otherwise known as ‘skudding’. This year police warned Leeds festival-goers about ‘super strength MDMA tablets’ which were in fact fake.

Individuals who sell fake drugs are attracted to ‘skudding’ for the reason that they can net thousands of pounds within a busy festival having bought a couple of packets of vitamins for as little as £20.00. With minimal risk of repercussions from aggrieved buyers, due to the tens of thousands of individuals passing through the festival and being able to avoid the detection of sniffer dogs (who are seemingly not trained to sniff out washing powder), the “rewards” for those who sell fake drugs are undoubtedly high.

However, the consequences for those individuals found to be selling fake drugs, even if they are B-12 vitamin tablets from a health food store, are equally serious. It may be argued that the harsh repercussions for selling fake drugs are counter-intuitive and appear to protect those who purchase drugs. The potential sentences impose however appear to be designed to deter anyone selling substances, fake or otherwise. 

An individual will most likely if they are searched and found to be in possession of powders or tablets, be arrested for possession with intent to supply drugs. When the relevant packages are seized by the police and examined, if it is found that they contain no harmful substances at all, that is not the end of the story. In such circumstances, it is likely that charges will be faced of ‘Articles for Use in Fraud’ contrary to the Fraud Act 2006, or charges of ‘Offering to supply a controlled drug’ contrary to section 4(3) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The fact that the powder or tablets seized do not contain any controlled substance does not in any way prevent criminal proceedings being brought against an individual.

If an individual is convicted of offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 they may face a custodial sentence ranging between 2 and 14 years depending upon the circumstances of the offence. Even in cases deemed to be less serious, a community order or fine may be imposed by the court and the individual will face the consequences of having a criminal record.

The potential consequences are significant and if you have been arrested or charged with offences relating to fake drugs you should seek expert legal advice.

JMW Solicitor’s Business Crime and Regulatory team have extensive experience and knowledge in advising upon serious allegations of drugs and fraud offences. For further information about the comprehensive service our lawyers can offer, call 0345 872 6666 or complete the form found on this page.

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