Paul Flowers pleads guilty to possession of drugs and fined

Paul Flowers pleads guilty to possession of drugs and fined

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Image from the BBC
Image from the BBC

Introduction 

We looked last month at the case of Paul Flowers, the former Chairman of the Co-Op, who was charged with possession of a Class A and a Class C drug. On 7th May 2014, Mr Flowers pleaded guilty to two charges (not one as was originally thought) of Possession of a Class A drug (cocaine and methamphetamine) and one charge of Possession of a Class C drug (ketamine).

Sentence

The sentence will be governed by the Drugs Guidelines produced by the Sentencing Council. The guidance for ‘simple’ possession is at page 30. Everything would depend on the circumstances of course, but the starting point would be a fine (our fact sheet explains how this should be assessed in accordance with someone’s means). The relevant part is as follows :

  • Possession of class A drugs is a Band A fine (25-75% of relevant weekly income) to 51 weeks’ custody.
  • Possession of class C, it is a discharge to a medium level community order (e.g. 80-150 hours of unpaid work).

Relevant weekly income is the money received after tax and national insurance deductions.

In mititgation, it was said on Flowers’ behalf that he told police he needed drugs to cope with stress and the care of his terminally ill mother.

We understand that, in accordance with what we would expect, Mr Flowers was fined in the sum of £525. It is not immediately clear if this includes the victim surcharge or not (10% of whatever the fine was), or any order for Mr Flowers to pay the costs of the case.

The BBC report that he was fined £400 and ordered to pay £125 in costs (as does the Telegraph). This sounds about right, but the Victim Surcharge of £40 (10% of 400) should be added to this, making a total financial penalty of £565.

The amount depends on Mr Flowers’ means and relevant weekly income which we are currently unaware of. The starting point for a Band C fine is 150% of RWI, so that assumes a RWI of £600. In any event, the court will have assessed Mr Flowers’ means and determined the fine on the basis that he can afford to pay it.

Was this the right sentence?

Mr Flowers is not short of a bob or two, despite losing his job at the co-op so this shouldn’t present too much of a hardship. In a case such as this, it is clear that Mr Flowers may be in need of some help to tackle his drug use, but it is probably that he is getting this anyway. In any event, it is not right that someone receives a tougher sentence (which is what a Community Order with drug treatment would be), just because they need help.

So, all in all a fair sentence and what we would have expected.

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Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

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