We regularly recommend that an examination of exhibits is undertaken in cannabis cultivation cases, as factors that can have a bearing on potential yield may be overlooked or misinterpreted. Things to consider include whether the plants were grown from seed or cuttings, plant gender, plant health and viability of immature plants.
However, a recent case highlighted another reason why examinations are important – the wrong exhibits!
On reviewing the papers in a cannabis cultivation case, it was apparent that the exhibit references for sample cannabis plants seized from the defendant’s address differed from the exhibits in the SFR1 drugs report from the prosecution scientist. This in itself did not necessarily suggest a problem – it is not uncommon for cannabis plants to be examined by police officers in the first instance, prior to submission to a forensic laboratory and to be re packaged. As the items initially seized were plants and the items examined at the laboratory were plant sections, exhibiting of sub-samples from the plants was a possibility.
Further information was sought from the CPS and OIC regarding the existence of exhibits other than those detailed in the SFR1 and further statements were requested relating to the seizure and submission of the exhibits. No further statements were forthcoming and we were informed that, with the exception of the two exhibits listed in the SFR1, all suspected cannabis items from the address had been destroyed.
During our examination it was discovered that the two exhibits submitted in relation to this case were labelled as having been seized two weeks prior to the date of the execution of the search warrant in this case.
It appears that the police had mixed up the exhibits from two different cases. Poor labelling of the exhibits (no defendant’s name or address details were listed) meant that this had not been picked up by the laboratory.
If you have a case involving cannabis cultivation evidence or want to discuss continuity of exhibits, please contact us on 0191 3324999 or 01480 432794.
Sarah Morley, Drugs/Toxicology expert, KBC Huntingdon