In the Media

Drug Mule sentences – grounds of appeal

PUBLISHED February 6, 2012

The announcement by the Sentencing Council on 24 January 2012 of a reduction of sentences for those who are drug mules, and not organisers, is long overdue but  greatly to be welcomed. The new guideline applies to all offenders aged 18 and over who are sentenced on or after 27 February 2012 regardless of the date of the offence.  But it  is otherwise  silent about those  already sentenced as the Sentencing Council has no remit as to past offences. Unless the guideline is clarified in this respect there will be serious anomalies, as  there will be a two tier structure of those sentenced before 27 February and those sentenced on or after that date .There will be  a situation where there would be some drug mules sentenced before 27 February who would be serving substantially longer sentences than drug mules  sentenced on or after that date- even though, under the criteria set out in the new guideline, the former?s  offending could be regarded as being less.

A small implosion in  sentence appeals to the Court of Appeal  would be inconvenient but would be preferable to the obvious injustice otherwise caused. The  alternative suggested by the Prison Reform Trust of the Government reviewing all such  cases would be  fairer as it would ensure that the cases of those overseas drug mules no longer represented would be picked up. In either event it should reduce the prison population  by  some hundreds of prisoners ,a saving which could be recycled back to other hard pressed areas of the  criminal Justice system.

Five test cases have now been lodged with the Court of Appeal by this firm seeking to establish that the new Guideline should be treated retrospectively .Solicitors should be aware that if they have had clients sentenced under the former Aramah Guidelines that these clients might be entitled to substantially reduced  sentences if this challenge is successful ,particularly if it still possible to lodge appeals in time.The primary submission is that if the former  Aramah guidelines are  now found to be too high it is  not  because they have suddenly become too high on 27 February 2012. They  have been recognised as being too high for years .Therefore there is no reason why those already sentenced should not be entitled to share in the benefits of those fortunate enough to  be sentenced on or after 27 February 2012. Illustrative of the anomalies that will now ensue is our lead test case where a woman sentenced to 7 years imprisonment on 5 January 2012 would have received five years imprisonment or less if sentenced on or after 27 February 2012. There is also a similar pending appeal case where sentence took place on 19 January 2012 .
Alured Darlington
Hanwell Chambers
Copies of the appeal grounds can be obtained on request. He can be contacted via: