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R v Quayle & ors [2005] 1 WLR 3642 Court of Appeal

Five appeals were jointly heard with one Attorney General reference. Each case was concerned with the applicability of the defence of necessity in relation to offences involving, possession, cultivation, production and importation of cannabis. In all the appeals the appellants argued that the cannabis was for medical purposes for the relief of pain for various medical ailments including HIV, Multiple sclerosis and severe back pain.

Held:

Neither the defence of necessity nor duress of circumstances was applicable in such circumstances.

Mance LJ:

"Its starting point is that the Secretary of State shall exercise his power to enable doctors (among other qualified professionals) to have, prescribe and supply controlled drugs (see section 7(3) of the 1971 Act and the consequential provisions of Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 dealing with importation set out in paragraph 11 above). But, under s 7(4), the Secretary of State may exclude the operation of s 7(3) in relation to a drug, if of the opinion that it is in the public interest that its production, supply and possession should be wholly or partly unlawful or unlawful except for purposes of research or other special purposes or except under a licence or other authority issued by him. Cannabis, cannabis resin and most cannabinoids are, under SI 2001 No. 3998 and SI 2001 No. 3997, designated as drugs which may only be used for medical or scientific research and as drugs to which s 7(4) of the 1971 Act applies. The effect of that designation is that, whatever benefits might be perceived or suggested for any individual patients, if these particular drugs were available for medical prescription and use (other than research), such individual benefits were and are in the legislator's view outweighed by disbenefits of strength sufficient in the national interest to require a general prohibition."

 
Back to lecture outline on the defence of necessity or duress in criminal law