Drugs in Schools
Schools in England and Wales often have a zero tolerance approach to drugs in schools and students are educated about the dangers of substance abuse as part of the national curriculum. Trading or keeping controlled drugs is a criminal offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
However the police do exercise greater leniency when dealing with offences that relate to the possession of cannabis. However any drug involvement in school is dealt with strongly in order to deter children from becoming involved in criminal activity.
Drugs in Schools Policy
Schools in England and Wales should have in place a clear and concise drugs policy which outlines how they intend to deal with drugs on school premises. Teaching staff, parents and pupils should be aware of the Drugs in schools policy and understand the implications of dealing or keeping drugs.
Many schools will clearly outline the consequences of keeping and dealing drugs on school premises. Being in possession of drugs on school premises may sometimes draw a less significant penalty than pupils supplying drugs. This in many schools would result in immediate and permanent expulsion. All teaching staff should be aware of the indications of drug abusers so they can take the necessary action and make an intervention to prevent the situation escalating.
There are certain students who may be at higher risk of becoming involved with drugs such as those with a lack of interest or regard for the school, students who have acquaintances who are known to deal or use drugs, conduct in and around school which is aggressive or out of character or openly approving or promoting the use of drugs.
Drugs in Schools & Staff
Teachers and school support staff should always be alert for signs of drugs in schools use or dealing amongst students. Potential signs of a drug problem may include mood swings, bodily changes such as slurred speech, panic and weight loss or a fixation on earning money (usually to fund the drug use).
When drug use or supply is suspected staff should act promptly. If banned drugs are retrieved on school premises the school should immediately notify the Police. Procedures state however that schools should not search pupils themselves to verify whether they are in possession of drugs.
Neither should school staff search possessions of students such as a pupil’s school bag without first seeking permission from the student. That being said the school is within their rights to search school property that the child may own such as a personal desk or locker. If they believe that the student is involved with drugs they should contact the parents of the child and/or the police.
There are three categories that deal with the various types of drugs in terms of their severity.
Class A drugs are the most serious. Drugs in this category will include ecstasy, cocaine and heroin.
Class B drugs are not as hazardous as class A but they can still present significant harm. A Class B drug would include cannabis, speed and some types of amphetamine
Class C drugs are the least serious. They are still harmful and are prohibited under the law. A class C drug would include ketamine or certain tranquillisers.
Cannabis was once a class C drug but it has now been upgraded to Class B which provides much stricter sentences for those caught in possession.
The severity of the sentence for drug possession or dealing will vary depending on the drug in question as well as whether you have any history of drug dealing or possession. If students are caught with a class C drug which is less serious but still harmful and illegal and no prior convictions, it is likely that you will receive a formal police caution at the very least. If however you are caught in possession of a Class A or Class B drug and/or previous history of drug dealing or possession it is very likely that you will face a more severe sentence.
The maximum term in prison for Class A drug possession is up to seven years in prison and an unlimited fine. In relation to a Class B drug possession the sentence is anything up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine. For the possession of Class C drugs you could face two years in prison and an unlimited fine. If you are found to be dealing drugs whether you are exchanging money or not, these sentences can be much longer.
Young People over the age of 18
The courts will aim to deal with young people in a slightly different way however. If a young person over the age of 18 is caught in possession of a drug such as cannabis the police will not only seize the drug, they will arrest you and are very likely to:
- Instruct that you attend cannabis counsel for the first possession offence
- Issue a Penalty Notice for Disorder which is currently an immediate fine of £80 in relation to a second offence
For a third offence it is likely that you will be taken into custody which could lead to a custodial sentence and criminal record.
Children between the age of 10 years and 18 years
If you are caught in possession of cannabis the police have the power to seize the drug and may send you to a Youth Offending Team. It is also expected that the police will:
Issue a severe warning about drug possession and notify your parents if it is a first offence
Provide an ultimate warning and refer you to the Youth Offending Team if it is your second offence
For a third offence the police can detain you which could lead to formal sentencing and detention.
Schools have a duty to provide suitable drug education and awareness to students which is age appropriate. Awareness sessions should cover the dangers of drug abuse and the likely sentences that young people can face if caught dealing or possessing drugs.
About the author:
This article was written for Allaboutuklaw by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team and posted by Lloyd Barrett. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.