The drug culture in the financial sector has often been linked with glamour. From Charlie Sheen, playing a rookie broker, snorting cocaine in the back of a limousine in Wall Street to Leonardo DiCaprio’s wild portrayal of Jordon Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, working hard and partying harder is seen as a badge of honour.

But movies are made to sell a story. They do not represent real life and the devastating cost of drug use and addiction. In 2017, Dean Hunt, who worked for commercial property firm, CBRE, narrowly escaped jail after transferring £93,340 of stolen money to family and friends. He told the Court the money was to pay for his drug debts after he became hooked on cocaine. The judge noted that Mr Hunt had placed the money directly into his bank account, and had not attempted to cover up his crime. There was no evidence of a well thought out, long-term plan to defraud. Therefore, a two-year suspended prison sentence was handed down and the Court ordered Mr Hunt to complete a 40-day rehabilitation activity programme.

Why are city workers so vulnerable to drug abuse? Yasmin Batliwala, chair of WDP, a drug and alcohol charity based in the Square Mile told The Guardian that there was a “risk-taking” culture in the City.

“People do work longer hours and the idea of people working hard and playing hard is actually very true. Recreational use of drugs like cocaine is certainly an issue, although I can also say that we have had a lot of success in terms of our outreach work.”

The consequences of being caught in possession of or supplying drugs

Controlled drugs are classified as class A, B, or C. The classification is based on the possible damage, both to an individual and society, the particular drug can cause.

  • Examples of a class A drug include: Crack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms, methadone, and methamphetamine (crystal meth).
  • Examples of a class B drug include: Amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, codeine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones (e.g. mephedrone), and ketamine.
  • Examples of a class C drug include: Anabolic steroids, benzodiazepines (diazepam), gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), piperazines (BZP), and khat.

Section 5 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) 1971 states it is a criminal offence for a person to have a controlled drug in their possession. To gain a conviction, the Prosecution must prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that:

  • the substance in question is a controlled drug,
  • it was in the defendant’s custody or control, and
  • the defendant knew, or could have reasonably known, of the existence of the drug

Under section 37(3) of the MDA 1971, possession can also include situations where another person possesses the drugs, but the defendant retains control over them. For example, the defendant had slipped cocaine unknowingly into her boyfriend’s coat pocket on the way to a party so she could secretly extract it later for use.

Being charged with supplying drugs is a significantly more serious offence.  In R v Maginnis (1987) 1 All ER 907 HL, the Court ruled that when defining the word ‘supply’ in the context of drugs, it should be given its ordinary meaning.  Here, the defendant was charged with possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply it to another under section 5(3) of the MDA 1971.  A package containing £500 worth of cannabis was found in his car.  The defendant stated the cannabis belonged to a friend and that the friend was picking it up later.  The trial judge ruled that his action in handing the drugs back to the friend amounted to supply.  The conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal but reinstated by the House of Lords.  Lord Keith, who gave the judgment, stated that ‘supply’ involved more than just transferring a possession.  Supply occurs when the person hands over an item for which the recipient can apply the item for the purposes for which they have a desire or duty to undertake.  Therefore, if a person buys two ecstasy pills with the purpose of giving one to a friend, then that person is ‘supplying’ their friend a drug.

Whether you were paid for the drugs supplied is immaterial in relation to the charge you may face; whether you made any profit from the supply only becomes material during sentencing.

Sentencing for possession with intent to supply a controlled drug

The Sentencing Council’s Definitive Guideline for Drug Offences guides the Court as to appropriate sentences for particular drug offences.

The maximum sentences for drug possession are as follows:

Class Maximum Sentence – Possession Maximum sentence – supply and production
A Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both Up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both
B Up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
C Up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both


If you are dependent on drugs, your criminal defence lawyer can ask for preparation of a pre-sentence report to establish whether a community order with a drug rehabilitation requirement would be a more just sentence than a fine or prison term.

What to do if you are caught with drugs

If you are suspected of possessing or are caught with a controlled drug, request a drug offence solicitor at the first opportunity and be extremely vigilant about what you say to the police prior to their arrival since whatever you say can be used against you.  For example, if you are caught with drugs in your handbag and say you are looking after them for a friend, you may be charged with possession with intent to supply, rather than the lesser charge of possession of drugs.

Prosecution teams commonly build a case for supply based on the amount of drugs seized.  Therefore, if you are in possession of a small quantity of drugs, it may be difficult for the prosecution to prove a case of intent to supply, unless you provide them with additional evidence through comments made.

Other factors which may lead to an intent to supply charge include:

  • the drugs in your possession are in a raw or unusually pure state, indicating you had proximity to the manufacturer or importer
  • you have several different types of drugs on you
  • the drugs have been prepared for sale, i.e. cut into small portions and wrapped
  • you have drug-related equipment such as weighing scales, foil, etc in your possession

If you are arrested on any drug-related charge, contact a criminal defence lawyer at the police station.  You may believe you have not done anything wrong; however, it is the job of those investigating to gain a prosecution.  It is imperative you have someone experienced in the criminal justice system to protect your interests.


If you have been charged with a drug offence, our criminal law team can help.

Stuart Matthews is a Senior Solicitor and Director of the firm. Reeds Solicitors is an award winning and leading top-tier criminal defence firm. For legal advice and representation, please contact us through our contact page here. Alternatively you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at