Cautions for class A drugs without the substance being tested

08 September 2021

Not reviewed after the date of publication


Can you clarify whether the full code test is met to administer a caution for possession of Class A substance when the substance itself has not been tested?

I was of the impression a caution could not be given as the full code test would not be met without a test, since the substance may not be a controlled substance at all.


The case of R v Wells 1976 held that where a person is under the belief that they are in possession of controlled drugs, their guilty plea is not invalidated by the fact that no scientific tests have been conducted on the drugs to support this belief. In contrast, the case of Mieras v Rees 1975 held that belief by a person at the time of supply, that he is supplying a controlled drug, is not sufficient evidence on a plea of not guilty; evidence of the type of drug by means of scientific testing is also required. The difference in the cases seems to be based on whether the suspect admits the offence and pleads guilty, or not.

Under the Full Code Test, the decision maker must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction in respect of each offence. In light of the above cases, it appears that whether the Full Code Test is satisfied, will depend upon whether the suspect admits to the offence or not (essentially, whether they would plead guilty or not).

A caution can only be given if the suspect admits to the offence. Therefore it is our view that if the suspect clearly admits the offence, the Full Code Test will be satisfied and it would be acceptable to issue a caution, even if no scientific testing had been carried out.

To read more legislation about this, login to the legal database. 

Back to Legal Questions