Drug Offences – Is paying off drug debt a financial motivation?



In a recent case, an offender offered the following by way of mitigation:

‘[He] said that he owed a gang £25,000 for his passage to the United Kingdom. He now said that he had initially been working on a construction site and had moved to work where the cannabis was being grown some five days before. He said that he was not expecting to receive money, but instead to repay the £25,000 debt to the criminal gang.’

The question of money was relevant to the category of offending for which he fell to be sentenced.

In response, the sentencing Judge stated:

‘In terms of role, there are factors here indicating both significant and lesser role. This is not a case where either defendant suggests they were coerced or bullied into doing what they were doing. They were seeking to pay off debts that they had voluntarily incurred and chose this way to discharge those debts.’

On appeal against a sentence of 25 months imprisonment, Counsel argued that the Judge erred in placing the applicant in the “significant role” category and should instead have put him in the “lesser role” category.

The Court of Appeal disagreed and ruled that:

‘The Judge was entitled to take the view that the applicant was motivated by financial advantage. He hoped and expected to reduce the debt that he had incurred to the criminal gang he had engaged to bring him illegally into the United Kingdom.

The appellant had no real personal mitigation. He was working to pay off a debt that he had incurred to enable him to enter the United Kingdom illegally. It was not suggested that he was a victim of modern slavery, or that he had acted under coercion or duress.’

As a firm, we carefully monitor Court of Appeal rulings such as this one to tailor representations we make to the court as part of the sentencing process. Taking a poor point in mitigation can often damage a case.

How can we help?

 We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact our team of criminal defence specialists on 02078373456



Image credit: “Drugs Make Me Happy” by Steve Snodgrass is licensed under CC BY 2.0.