Power to destroy seized drug equipment

19 April 2021

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question: 

All local policy and NPIA guidance states to dismantle and destroy equipment relating to cannabis farms but does not state the legal power.

Most equipment is still legal to buy and can be used for legal purpose, what power is being relied upon here to do so?

Answer:

Regulation 8 of the Police (Property) Regulations 1997 gives a Chief Officer of Police the discretion to destroy or otherwise dispose of property in police possession. The direction of the Chief Officer does not have to be obtained on a case by case basis, rather an overall direction is usually given somewhere within force policy.

A direction will be given by the Chief Officer when they are satisfied that the nature of any property to which the regulations apply is such that it is not in the public interest that it should be sold or retained, it shall be destroyed or otherwise disposed of in accordance with his directions.

Although we can appreciate the fact that equipment may be legal to buy and / or have other purposes, forces are unlikely to want to return such items to the individual from whom they were seized based on the risk that the items may once again be used for an illegal purpose. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the police would be required to retain such items for evidential purposes, with cannabis related offences usually being proved by other means, such as samples from plants.

Where a direction under regulation 8 of the Police (Property) Regulations 1997 has not been given effect in a particular force area, regulation 4 of the Police (Property) Regulations 1997 also provides for unclaimed property in the possession of the police.

Whilst unclaimed property must normally be retained in the possession of the police for a year pursuant to regulation 4, an exception is made to this requirement by section 2(3) of the Police Property Act 1897 which allows for the disposal of property at any time in cases where the property is a perishable item or its custody involves unreasonable expense / inconvenience.

Similarly, the Police (Property) Regulations 1997 may be considered with regards to the disposal of weapons in possession of the police, where the Police (Property) Act 1897 applies.

We would advise that advice is sought from an evidence clerk employed in your force area as they will be able to advise on the specific authority applicable in your area and also, any further localised agreements in place.

The following APP may also be of assistance:

https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/information-management/management-of-police-information/retention-review-and-disposal-of-police-information/

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

Back to Legal Questions