The 6 Steps in Drug Trafficking Sentence

Drug trafficking has been one of the most serious offences in Southeast Asia, often resulting in capital punishment. In Hong Kong, a person can be sentenced to decades of imprisonment for a seemingly modest quantity of dangerous drugs.

The influx of dangerous drugs has been a problem in Hong Kong over the past few decades. As a result, Hong Kong has developed a rich body of case law in this area.

On the other hand, as one of the most serious offences, trafficking in a seemingly modest quantity of drugs could attract a lengthy sentence of imprisonment. For example, merely 0.6 kg of Cocaine could result in 20 years of imprisonment. Thus, over the years, the Court identified numerous factors that could bear on the sentence. For example, international elements, partial self-consumption, extreme youth, assistance to authorities, or even participation in Father Wotherspoon’s campaign. At times, there are inconsistencies as to how these factors interplay in arriving at the final sentence.

The Court of Appeal in HKSAR v Herry Jane Yusuph [2021] 1 HKLRD 290 had taken an overview of the sentencing principles for drug trafficking in the past and set out the 6-step approach in arriving at an appropriate sentence. Clarifying the confusion as well as providing a framework for a more consistent sentence between cases and judges. There is also a detailed discussion for each step. This is now the essential case for reference in this type of offence.

OrderStep [Para]
1Identify the applicable guideline and band [57]
2Assess the role and culpability of the defendant [58]
3Identify the starting point by reference to the band [69]
4Consider aggravating factors [70]
5Consider mitigating factors [73]
6Ensure the overall sentence is fair, just and balanced [79]

The Court of Appeal decision clarified how the different and often complex factors interplay with each other, providing a consistent approach to sentencing for one of the most serious offences in Hong Kong

The 6 Steps in Drug Trafficking Sentence
Gordon Chan avatar
Gordon Chan, Esq

Barrister of the High Court of Hong Kong. Member of the Bar Association's Committee on Criminal Law and Procedure. Specialised in medical, technology and criminal law.

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