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R v Maginnis [1987] AC 303 House of Lords

The defendant was charged with possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply it to another under s.5(3) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 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 was an action of supply. The defendant then pleaded guilty and appealed. The Court of Appeal quashed the conviction.


The conviction was reinstated.

Lord Keith gave the leading speech:

"The word "supply," in its ordinary natural meaning, conveys the idea of furnishing or providing to another something which is wanted or required in order to meet the wants or requirements of that other, it connotes more than the mere transfer of physical control of some chattel or object from one person to another... In my opinion it is not a necessary element in the conception of supply that the provision should be made out of the personal resources of the person who does the supplying. Thus if an employee draws from his employer's store materials or equipment which he requires for purposes of his work, it involves no straining of language to say that the storekeeper supplies him with those materials or that equipment, notwithstanding that they do not form part of the storekeeper's own resources and that he is merely the custodier of them."

Thus, Lord Keith, with whom Lord Brandon, Lord Mackay and Lord Oliver concurred, claimed to be applying the literal rule.

Lord Goff, however, dissented:

"I do not feel able to say that either the delivery of goods by a depositor to a depositee, or the redelivery of goods by a depositee to a depositor, can sensibly be described as an act of supplying goods to another. I certainly cannot conceive of myself using the word "supply" in this context in ordinary speech. In ordinary language the cloakroom attendant, the left luggage officer, the warehouseman and the shoe mender do not 'supply' to their customers the articles which those customers have left with them."
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