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Drug laws and licensing

  • Is a cannabis warning given in the street?

    Yes, where the police officer is satisfied that the guidance criteria are met. However, a cannabis warning can also be given after arrest at a police station.


  • Where is this guidance?

    The guidance on policing cannabis can be found on the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) website.

  • Will a cannabis warning appear on the Police National Computer (PNC)?

    Cannabis warnings are a non-statutory disposal so they are not recorded on the PNC.

  • What is a Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND)?
    A PND is a one- off fine that can be issued for a specific list of offences. PNDs were introduced by the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 to address anti-social behaviour while also reducing police bureaucracy and paperwork.
  • For which offences can a PND be issued?

    Examples of offences where a penalty notice for disorder may be issued include:

    • intentionally harassing or scaring people
    • being drunk and disorderly in public
    • destroying or damaging property
    • petty shoplifting
    • selling alcohol to underage customers
    • selling alcohol to somebody who is obviously drunk
    • using fireworks after curfew
    • cannabis possession

    Penalty notices are not the same as criminal convictions. However, failure to pay your fine may result in higher fines or imprisonment.

  • How much is the fine?

    PNDs are fines of either £50 or £80. A recipient of a PND for cannabis possession will get a fine of £80.

  • Does the fine on a PND have to paid immediately?

    No. There is a 21 day suspended enforcement period in which the individual can consider their options or seek legal advice.

  • Does receiving a penalty notice count as a criminal conviction?

    No. The recipient of a PND can discharge their liability to conviction for the offence to which the notice relates. Payment of the penalty involves neither a finding nor an acceptance of guilt, therefore there is no record of a criminal conviction for the offence for which the notice was issued.

  • What happens if a suspect is issued with a PND against their will?

    An individual cannot choose whether or not to accept a PND, it is for the police officer to decide. An individual can choose not to pay the penalty and  ask for the case to be heard in court. However, if found guilty of the offence they will receive a criminal record.

  • What happens if the fine is not paid and a court hearing is not requested?
    Normal procedure is for the penalty to be registered as a fine at one-and-a-half times the value of the penalty to be enforced by the courts. However, there may also be exceptional circumstances where the police may seek to bring a prosecution for the original offence.
  • What happens if the recipient of a PND is found guilty at court?

    If found guilty, the recipient of a PND may be subject to the maximum penalty allowed for that offence in law. They will receive a criminal conviction and may be ordered to pay costs.

  • Is a PND for cannabis possession recorded on the Police National Computer?
    All PNDs for recordable offences should be recorded on the Police National Computer. A PND for cannabis possession should be recorded in the same way as other PNDs; it should appear as non-conviction information on the PNC.
  • Doesn’t this mean there is a criminal record?
    No. It is non-conviction information. PNDs are not an admission of guilt; payment of the PND removes the creation of a criminal record. A criminal record is only received if the fine is unpaid and the recipient goes to court and is found guilty of the offence for which the PND was issued.
  • Does this escalation process mean that a person won’t receive a caution or arrest for cannabis possession?

    The escalation process will always be subject to a police officer’s discretion and the full circumstances of the offence will be considered, including any aggravating factors. There may be times when issuing a caution or making an arrest are the most appropriate method of disposal.

  • Why are PNDs only for cannabis possession? What about other Class B drugs?

    PNDs play a specific role in the escalation process for cannabis possession to be used by police officers in place of a second cannabis warning. Cannabis is generally immediately recognisable as a substance by its physical appearance without the need for forensic analysis. Other controlled drugs cannot necessarily be so readily identified as they are often in powder or tablet form. This would preclude police officers from dealing with the matter on the streets, as the PND otherwise enables.

  • Can PNDs be given to under 18s in possession of cannabis?

    No. Penalty notices are not an appropriate disposal for young people committing drugs offences. It is important that young people’s cases are dealt with at the police station so underlying problems can be identified. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 requires that young people are considered for a reprimand, final warning or prosecution.

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