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Category: UK Law

Money laundering and the re-scheduling of cannabis based medicinal products

Money laundering and the re-scheduling of cannabis based medicinal products

BCL Solicitors, David Hardstaff and Daniel Jackson, have raised an important issue in relation to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA), anti-money laundering (AML), and the re-scheduling of cannabis based medicinal products for human use (http://www.bcl.com/a-green-light-for-business/).  Others have also done so.
The problem arises in relation to the definition of “criminal conduct” in s.340(2) POCA, namely, conduct which “(a) constitutes an offence in any part of the United Kingdom, or (b) would constitute an offence in any part of the United Kingdom if it occurred there” [emphasis added].
A money laundering offence under ss.327-329 POCA is not committed if a person “(a) …knows, or believes on reasonable grounds, that the relevant criminal conduct occurred in a particular country or territory outside the United Kingdom, and (b) the relevant criminal conduct (i) was not, at the time it occurred, unlawful under the criminal law then applying in that country or territory, and (ii) is not of a description prescribed by an order made by the Secretary of State”.  However, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Money Laundering: Exceptions to Overseas Conduct Defence) Order 2006, provides limited protection.
It would be a harsh result if a person fell foul of the money laundering provisions when handling, in the UK, money obtained by a reputable pharmaceutical company from the manufacture overseas (and under licence there) of a drug which, in the UK, is a “controlled drug” (MDA 1971) and not licenced for production in the UK.  Can this result be avoided?  It may not be tenable to say that because the company had acted under licence overseas, the same “conduct”, “if it occurred [in the UK]” (i.e., licensed production), would therefore not constitute an offence.  This would be to treat the grant or absence of a licence as a circumstance of the “conduct”.  If this were held to be sufficient to escape liability, then the outcome would (arguably) be more generous than the limited exception granted by the 2006 Order.  In any event, as the writers point out, a “‘like for like’ comparison of the UK’s controlled drug licensing regime with that of another country is unlikely to be straightforward”.  Perhaps the most satisfactory answer is to amend the 2006 Order and provide a wider exception or range of exceptions.

See also my post re the regulations in respect of CBMPs [Link]

Psychoactive Substances Act Review

Psychoactive Substances Act Review

The Home Office has published a Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 Review Framework [link].  There is no doubt that the PSA has had the effect of closing down most, if not all, of the high street retail outlets selling ‘new psychoactive substances’ (i.e. those substances not controlled under the MDA 1971).  Less clear, I suggest, is the extent to which (i) prevalence has changed since the PSA came into force, (ii) the quantities of NPS being sourced  (e.g. online or from street dealers), and (iii) the substances most frequently consumed: see recent BBC news items [link],  including news that the prison service found 1/4 metric tonne of drugs in one year [link].

Private prosecutions; asset-recovery using the private sector

Private prosecutions; asset-recovery using the private sector

Private prosecutions in the UK seem to be increasing.  There is also growing interest in the use of the private sector to recover the proceeds of criminal conduct.   Perhaps it is time to carefully consider whether such proceedings/actions are in the public interest (and, if they are,  in what circumstances?), and to consider how they should be managed and regulated.

“Separation Centres” within prisons

“Separation Centres” within prisons

The Government has published a Statutory Instrument (SI 2017 No. 576, in force 12th May 2017) that empowers the Secretary of State (under new rule 46A of the Prison Rules 1999) to direct that certain prisoners be held in “separation centres” on the grounds of “national security, preventing terrorism offences, preventing the dissemination of views that might encourage such offences, and preventing the use of particular views or beliefs to undermine good order and discipline.” [Explanatory Note]

Two important drug law cases in January and March 2017

Two important drug law cases in January and March 2017

See “Legal Developments 2017” for the cases of R v Poraj; and R v Johnson.  The latter case is important in relation to the issue of whether a person who carries, or conveys, an article into prison (in the absence of authority to do so) must know that the article is ‘prohibited’ albeit that it need not be proved that he/she knew precisely what the article was.   Practitioners should be careful about using the colloquialism “Spice”.  There is no such drug in science or in law called “Spice”.  It is used to refer to certain synthetic cannabinoids of which there are a good many.  Some are controlled under the MDA 1971 and some are not.  They may, or may not be, “psychoactive” for the purposes of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.