Tighter Control on Date Rape Drugs

The Court of Appeal recently laid down a sentencing guideline for trafficking in GHB and GHL - common date rape drugs.

In HKSAR v Ko Wai-shing (高威誠) [2021] 5 HKLRD 724, the Court of Appeal laid down a sentencing guideline for trafficking in γ-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), as well as γ-Butyrolactone (GBL). Both dangerous drugs regulated in Hong Kong.

GHB and GBL are known as date rape drugs, while GBL is a pro-drug of GHB. After being consumed, GBL will be metabolised by the body into GHB. As a depressant to the central nervous system, GHB can cause the loss of consciousness. However, it is also abused as a recreational drug for euphoria and sexual enhancement. Alarmingly, ingesting GHB at a high dose is very dangerous as it can depress breathing which can be fatal.

Having considered the prevalence of GHB and its physiological harm, the Court of Appeal pegged GHB to the sentencing guideline for methaqualone powder, as set out in Attorney General v Chan Chi-man [1987] HKLR 221.

QuantitySentence
Up to 500 grammesAs the court thinks fit
Over 500 grammes6 to 12 months’ imprisonment
Over 1,000 grammes12 to 24 months’ imprisonment
Over 2,000 grammes2 to 3 years’ imprisonment
Over 3,000 grammes3 to 4½ years’ imprisonment
Over 6,000 grammes4½ to 6 years’ imprisonment
Over 9,000 grammes6 years’ imprisonment upwards

Recognising the greater potency and duration of GBL, the sentencing is be upward adjusted. For each year of sentence applicable to GHB, a month of imprisonment will be added to the starting point for the equivalent weight of GBL.

It is interesting to note that in Ko Wai-shing, the defendant ordered 3 litres of GBL through a legitimate channel from Lithuania. He ordered the liquid through a website, which was posted to Hong Kong in a parcel. On the evidence of the case, the court held that he must have known of the nature of GBL. His conviction was upheld on appeal. Under the new sentencing guideline, the starting point for the defendant would be 3 years and 3 months’ imprisonment.

Drug trafficking is a very serious offence in Hong Kong. Do not attempt to import any drugs of unknown origin into Hong Kong, including internet mail orders.

Tighter Control on Date Rape Drugs
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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