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conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs is an offence that can come with a stiff punishment. This article provides detailed guidance on the typical sentencing for this offence.

Sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs

Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs is an offence that falls under the legislation of Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. It’s a crime that is taken seriously by the courts, and offenders can be severely penalised.

The term ‘conspiracy’ literally means to agree. The conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs offence can be defined as agreeing with two or more persons to take control of a drug to pass it onto others, either in exchange for money or for free.  The agreement may be expressed, implied or assumed, but it is there with intents to act.

If you’ve discovered that you’re going to be part of a police investigation or charged for this offence, then taking early action by hiring a skilled lawyer can mean a more favourable outcome.

In certain situations, good quality drug lawyers can even get a case quashed before it develops into a court case. By taking early legal advice, you may be able to avoid being imprisoned or at worst, the lawyer may get you a reduced sentence.

The adversity of having a criminal record linked to your name is challenging. It can affect future career options, financial credit options and your reputation. Being imprisoned can mean separation from family and loved ones and difficulty accessing a consistent income for dependents.

We have put together a few questions that our clients will typically ask when faced with a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs offence. We have also detailed the general sentencing guidelines so that you can understand where a court outcome may lead. If you have any questions that we haven’t answered here, call us on 0208 888 5225.

It’s important to note that the term ‘conspiracy’ means to agree, but in law, the interpretation is wide and broad. Unfortunately, the word is not defined by legislation, so is used in a variety of different ways. For example, you could be charged for the act of sharing with friends that you’ll go to get some drugs with another friend and bring them to the other friends. Sometimes just joking around and being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or saying the wrong thing can land you in trouble.

Here are some examples of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs related acts that may get you charged.

The actions of conspirators that can result in prosecution include:

Agreeing with another to drive to another town to collect cannabis for friends –   in this case, the act of driving the car is not the offence, but agreeing to get the marijuana and bring it back to distribute it is.

Planning how to secure drugs for a weekend party – even if you’re not planning to take part in the crime, the mere act of planning the crime could see you charged with conspiracy.

Plotting a mass shipment of cocaine, who will play which part in the ‘project’ and how – there are many different roles involved in taking possession and the distribution of drugs. These roles can include those of the courier, financial manager, look-out, go-between, agent, link in the supply chain or involved in the division of bulk drugs. Planning with others on who will do what and how is illegal.

You don’t even need to have any drugs in your possession for you to be prosecuted for a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs drugs offence, you just need to be involved in the planning of the crime.

What is the average sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs?  

The courts penalise heavily for drug-related offences, including for the conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs offence. In the most severe cases, sentences can even stretch to life imprisonment, which in the UK is 15 years before the Parole Board will consider a release. You may also receive a fine.

Besides this, you may be given a penalty for another related crime such as possession of a class A drug or selling drugs. Any extra charge can increase the punishment that you receive from the Judge.

How does a court decide on the seriousness of the conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs offence for sentencing purposes?

If you’ve been accused of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs drugs, you will feel worried and anxious about what might happen next. Being imprisoned can prevent you from being able to receive a consistent income to support dependents. The Court will need to consider what role you’ve played and other aspects which we cover here.

There are several factors involved in deciding what your sentence should be. We have taken an excerpt from the Sentencing Guidelines to give you an understanding of what factors are taken into consideration when determining what penalty should be issued to a person convicted of this crime.

Culpability demonstrated by offender’s role

One or more of these characteristics may demonstrate the offender’s role. These lists are not exhaustive.

Leading role

  • directing or organising buying and selling on a commercial scale;
  • substantial links to, and influence on, others in a chain;
  • close ties to the source;
  • the expectation of significant financial gain;
  • uses business as cover;
  • abuses a position of trust or responsibility, for example, prison employee, medical professional.

Significant role

  • operational or management function within a chain;
  • involves others in the operation whether by pressure, influence, intimidation or reward;
  • motivated by financial or other advantages, whether or not operating alone;
  • some awareness and understanding of the scale of operation;
  • supply, other than by a person in a position of responsibility, to a prisoner for gain without coercion.

Lesser role

  • performs a limited function under direction;
  • engaged by pressure, coercion, intimidation;
  • involvement through naivety/exploitation;
  • no influence on those above in a chain;
  • very little, if any, awareness or understanding of the scale of operation;
  • if own operation, absence of any financial gain, for example, joint purchase for no profit, or sharing minimal quantity between peers on a non-commercial basis.


As explained above, every case is unique, and there is no guarantee on what the outcome might be. However, the general process should be that you appoint an experienced legal representative as soon as you are informed that you are being charged. You can then take advice on how to navigate the case that could be complex and frightening.

Once the legal representative talks with you, they will be able to examine what evidence there is against you. Your lawyer can then either work on having your charge dismissed or have it reduced to a lesser charge.

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs sentence?

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. The following are some of the other factors considered when the Court decides which sentence to give in cases of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs drugs. They will look at:

  • Your previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was initially legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any severe medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents


Is it possible to reduce a sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs with a guilty plea?

In recent years, several changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

  • ‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.
  • If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one-fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure. However, the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge, who has the discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.
  • After these times, there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one-tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the trial. In theory, the ten per cent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but before any witness evidence being heard.
  • If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s essential for the solicitor to regularly inform the Court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.


What are some of the other consequences of a conspiracy of possession with intent to distribute drug offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of an offence. These are extra elements that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that affect a dependent’s finances, property or activity.

The range of ancillary orders for possession of indecent image convictions include the following:

·         An injunction to prevent drug dealing

·         Confiscation order

·         Restraint or cash seizure orders

·         Victim’s surcharge

In addition, the Court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining sufficient evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to Court and you are convicted of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence Length+ 7 years Sentence Length+ 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length+ 4 years Sentence Length+2 years
Prison sentences between 1 and 4 years Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 1 year Sentence length + 1 year Sentence length +6 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

Over the last thirty years, we have handled all manner of defence cases in the arena of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs and other drug-related conspiracy cases. Doing so means that we have developed deep expertise in this field of law. Our role is pivotal in that we can help you by recommending the best course of action, support you in the police station and the courts. No matter what the size of your case is, we have the experience to be able to help.

Fortunately, we know all drug-related conspiracy legislation inside out and can examine your case to find the most potent defence arguments. Our ability to weaken the discussion of the prosecution is exhaustive and second to none.

As you might imagine, errors can be made by the prosecution team when seeking a conviction, and we are experts at finding them. There are also occasions when we can get cases dismissed entirely.

In brief, you must seek the appropriate legal representation as soon as you hear anything about being involved in a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs drugs case. Contact us immediately so that we can begin work on getting you the most favourable outcome. We have detailed knowledge of the 1971 Act and the drugs involved in your alleged conspiracy.

Last but not least, our approach includes putting the police under pressure to conclude their investigation so that you and your family don’t need to set your lives on hold indefinitely, nor suffer from having frozen assets or finances.

What will happen when I instruct a drugs conspiracy lawyer?

Our first step will be to understand what the circumstances of your involvement is in this case. We will then look into what evidence the prosecution team have on you with regards to the offence of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs drugs.

Our experience is extensive and unmatched. Once we start processing your case for you, you will feel a lot better about the situation.

Working with our specialist criminal defence team, Barristers, QCs, forensic analysts and expert witnesses, we will meticulously prepare a robust defence that may even result in your acquittal of all offences.

Our witness experts are known for finding proof that you were not where you are accused of being at the time of an offence. We have also made breakthroughs with other circumstantial evidence that gets cases dismissed before going to Court.

Arrest & Interview

It’s hard enough to handle the embarrassment of being taken to the police station without sitting through hours of probing and intrusive questions designed for you to entrap yourself. Considering the immediate guidance of an expert drug offence or conspiracy solicitor can change this for you.

Under no circumstances should you attend the police station without a legal professional by your side guiding you.

Besides the slew of questions, the police will want to look around your property, your workplace and your vehicle. They will want to hunt through your personal effects and communications as they search for further evidence.

Fortunately, the sharp-minded legal team and wide network of legal professionals of Stuart Miller Solicitors are here to support you by building a potentially bulletproof defence strategy. Please note that we will try to get you legal aid, but if you don’t qualify, our fees are highly competitive, and we don’t tack on extra charges without informing you, wherever possible.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

You are invited to a free no-obligation consultation with us where you can discuss your situation, ask questions and express concerns. It’s also a chance to learn more about why we are the best match for your conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs case.

Please note that if you’ve already been arrested, we will represent you in the police station for free and will work on securing your legal aid.

Complete our contact form or call us on 0208 888 5225 and ask to speak with our drugs offences solicitors to arrange a meeting with them. The session can be face to face, by telephone or by video. If you have been taken to the police station and need immediate legal assistance, call us on our emergency number 24/7 on 07980 000 076.

Get in touch with us now for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs legal help.

(This page was last updated on November 28, 2023.)



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