The long and costly arm of the British justice system.

A true story by Melvyn


This all started when I was arrested in Portsmouth for possession of a small quantity of a so-called class B drug, namely in Police jargon ‘Herbal cannabis’ at 15:00 on Thursday the 5th April. When the police officer asked me if I had any of the aforementioned substance I handed him my tobacco tin with a couple of grams of the illicit material.

Blueberry herbal cannabis.

Herbal cannabis costing the taxpayer a fortune.

We then drove to the main police station where I was duly processed, i.e. photo, dabs and DNA swabs. I was then released on police bail with a document telling me that I had to appear at Portsmouth magistrate’s court at 09:45 on the 27th of April to answer to the charge.

After I inquired about the location of economical ‘Backpacker’ hostels one of the officers said he would drive me to a homeless shelter. This turned out to be quite hospitable, even though it meant sharing a dormitory with 4 other men and 2 women.

The regular residents had a wide screen TV, as well as tea and coffee making necessaries. The following morning I got up early and took the first available train home.

On the following Monday I wrote to the court and told them that as I had already admitted to the possession, and the fact that it would cost me around £200 to attend the court hearing, would the court accept my postal statement of guilty as charged? I didn’t hear anything further until 17:45 on the 29th of May. See following entry.

As usual I was woken by the ’dawn chorus’ so I got up had a quick wash, made fresh coffee and went back to bed and read and smoked until around 07:30. Got up had my breakfast – yoghurt with honey – watched the news, checked and answered my e-mails.

10:35 I went and bought some groceries. When I got home I made my midday repast – ‘Zanzibar chicken’- last night’s dinner micro waved. From two until four I played cards at the village social club without any success.

17:45 I was washing yesterday’s dishes prior to making my evening meal; poached salmon fillet with broccoli, potatoes, and a spicy parsley sauce, when I heard a knock at the front door.

Drying my hands I went to see who it was my door to find an attractive young police officer who was in the process of calling her colleague, who is on his way around to the back of my bungalow.

After she had shown me her ID and warrant for my arrest, because of my no show at Portsmouth magistrate court on the 27th of April, I was allowed to pack some necessary items; as I would be spending the night in a holding cell in Goole police station before being transported to Portsmouth by a security company the next day.

On arrival I was duly processed, i.e. photo, dabs and DNA swabs. I was then shown into my abode for the night until my departure the following morning. Dave, the charging officer, asked if I would like a cup of tea and something to eat – coffee wasn’t available – too expensive; he rattled off a list of micro-wave meals. I chose Cottage pie, which was delivered piping hot, however the mashed potato had the appearance and texture of wallpaper paste. Nevertheless, it filled me up and after I’d eaten I was questioned by the police nurse about any illnesses or medication. During and after this examination I chatted and joked with the station staff. I asked the young police woman if she had been selected for the Olympic reinforcement ‘gravy-train’, which brought a round of jeers from her fellow officers. So I assumed that she had volunteered.

When I returned to my cell I drank some more tea and read until I’d finished the penultimate chapter in my current book.

I buzzed the front desk and Dave came and asked if I needed anything to which I asked him to turn down the light, which he did and wished me a pleasant night’s sleep.

Thursday 29.05.2012
I was woken by the sun and the sound of the early morning traffic. The night officer brought me a cup of tea around 06:00 and asked me what I would like breakfast. The choice was micro-wave beans, potato and sausages, or scrambled eggs and bacon. I chose the former; the beans were OK, the sausages appeared to be made of sawdust soaked in Soy sauce.

Shortly after 07:00 I was released from my cell and handed over to the two security officers from GEO-AMEY. They immediately handcuffed me and one of the guards attached himself to my right wrist with a second set of ’cuffs for the three metres to the transport vehicle. It was fitted out to carry up to six prisoners from jail to the courts and vice-versa. Before getting into the van I asked one of the guards if I could have a smoke before we left. He said no, but he would make me a roll-up as soon as we got on the road. I had to pee in a gel-filled bag.

Portsmouth Magistrates Court

Portsmouth Magistrates Court

We drove 4 hours non-stop and arrived at Portsmouth Magistrates court at 011:20 where I was handed over to the court security personnel with the same procedure I endured on departure. The security supervisor asked me if I would like the services of the duty solicitor, to which I replied, ‘Why not?’

As in Goole I was given something to drink and a short while later I was cuffed and escorted to an interview room where I met the aforesaid lawyer. She already had my file and said we should play it as it transpired. Cuffed again I was taken back to the holding cell.

At approximately at 13:00 as far as I could estimate I was given another micro-wave meal; Thai red curry with rice which was piquant as a poor Lancashire Hotpot.
Just after 14:15 I was once again cuffed by a rather jovial magistrate’s prison guard and escorted to dock the courtroom, which was a wooden cage with triple-layer bullet proof glass facing the bench with its three ‘worships’.

The current hearing was coming to an end as we entered the chamber. The guard removed the cuffs and told me to be seated. The chairman of the court then called my name and the solicitor indicated that I should stand and answer. He then informed me that if I pleaded not guilty the case would be passed to the crown court. I thought briefly, ‘Is it worth the hassle and expense to the taxpayers to show how stupid the law can be.’

But then, having paid the piper several times, I have frequently called the tune’ so I responded, ‘Guilty,’ as I did when first arrested five and a half weeks ago. The duty solicitor then told me that I shouldn’t say anything unless asked. She then presented my case. The panel went into a huddle for a couple of minutes and the Chair told me that they had considered every aspect of the case and the court would fine me £100, which was commuted because I had already spent over twenty hours in custody. He then said that there was a ‘victim surcharge’ of £15 and did I have the means to pay this? Before I could reply the clerk of the court said that this also could be commuted.

I’d paid my debt and was once again ‘a free man’. The guard looked at me and grinned, ‘Wher’ve yow come from?’ as we made our way down to the holding cells. When I told him he said, ‘You’ll be needin a travel warrant, then? He told me to sit in the reception cell, which was furnished with a table and two utility chairs, while he got my belongings and a travel warrant block. He gave me the warrant and told me that the station was five minutes round the corner.

14:50 and I was on a train to Waterloo.

17:25: I was on a East coast train to York with amicable fellow travellers and arrived in York, where I had time for a pint and a spliff before catching the last bus home. Got home shortly after 21:00 and went to bed at 23:00.

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  1. This is simply brilliant!!! The tax payer needs to be made aware of this absolutely bonkers waste of money.
    Thanks for sharing! Opened my eyes up for sure.

  2. I really hope that £15 victim surcharge (commuted) would have gone to help all those poor people who were harmed by your herbs! 🙂
    This must have cost them, literally, £thousands.
    I can’t see why they didn’t just steal your weed and caution you. Cost to them: about £10.
    Typical daily cost of someone in prison: £125 (in custody at police station / court is much more!)
    Add in the costs of your re-arrest, secure transport, duty solicitor, court hearing, travel warrant etc… No wonder the Government keeps saying it’s skint and we should all tighten our belts!

  3. This is a brilliant post, thanks for sharing your experience. Exposing the ridiculousness of the Cannabis prohibition and the legal system which administers it. Indeed I wonder how many cases like this happen each year (i doubt yours is exceptional) and yes, how much is it costing?

  4. the guy was gonna spend £200 on the first court appearance…ended up getting lifts here an there free,even waiter service fed with no washing up ,it was a little adventure and look at the stuff most only ever get to see on tv…blimmin good day out by the sound of it…shame it cost you a couple of grams of smoke tho.

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