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UK: Cannabis couple hit out at cruel prosecution
News and Star, Carlisle
Tuesday 07 Jan 2020
Minutes before the couple’s trial was due to start at Carlisle Crown Court yesterday, Lesley Gibson and her husband Mark, both 55, were dramatically declared not guilty as prosecutors conceded it was not in the public interest to continue the case.
The couple walked free after a Crown Prosecution Service barrister revealed Mrs Gibson was now using a new cannabis-based treatment which is being prescribed privately - at a cost of £650 per month.
After Judge Michael Duck announced the not guilty verdicts, the couple’s supporters in the public gallery spontaneously applauded the ruling. Mrs Gibson wept with relief.
The couple were charged with possessing and producing the class B drug after police raided their home in Yewdale Road, Morton, on January 19 last year.
Officers were tipped off that the couple had cannabis chocolate.
During yesterday’s hearing, prosecutor Brendan Burke outlined how Mrs Gibson had been legally using a cannabis-based spray called Sativex - supplied by the local NHS. It provided her with instant relief for the worst of her symptoms - including intense pain, body spasms, and sight loss.
The prosecution said she began growing the drug after NHS bosses withdrew Sativex.
In an exclusive interview, the couple told the News & Star they felt they had no option other than to create their own supply of cannabis, so Mrs Gibson could treat her symptoms after the Sativex was withdrawn. The spray relieved her symptoms within seconds, she explained.
“I want to say how relived I am am at the result today,” she said after being acquitted.
“I hope that this makes it better for everybody in the future and that this doesn’t happen to anybody else.
“These prosecutions are unnecessary, and very, very cruel. Today was a good result and the law is listening - at last.”
Mrs Gibson used Sativex spray for more than a decade.
The couple’s ordeal began when police raided their home. They were growing nine cannabis plants - purely so Mrs Gibson could use the cannabis to treat her illness.
She added: “It’s ridiculous I was charged. I’m not a bad person. The only thing I’ve done wrong is wanting to be well. There are lots of people like me. This is not the way you should treat ill people.
“I understand that the law should be upheld. But in this case the law is not workable. Cannabis is a medicine now.”
Mrs Gibson now gets legal cannabis through a private prescription because it is not yet available through the NHS, but only privately, since the law recently changed to make that possible. Mr Gibson said NHS bodies regard cannabis as a “comfort drug”. He has called for that to change.
The judge warned the couple they will be prosecuted if they were to grow cannabis again.
Crown Prosecution Service officials have defended the way its lawyers handled the prosecution of Mark and Lesley Gibson following their decision to offer no evidence at crown court.
A spokeswoman said: “We have a duty to keep all our cases under continuous review. Since charges were authorised, we now understand that one of the defendants is being lawfully prescribed a cannabis-derived medication from an accredited doctor.
“We have therefore concluded it is not in the public interest to continue a prosecution against either of the defendants and offered no evidence.” CPS lawyers said that the decision to charge the couple was made in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.
The CPS’s function is not to decide whether or not a person is guilty but to make fair and objective assessments of whether it is appropriate to present a case to a judge and jury.
Mrs Gibson’s solicitor Tayab Ali said: “It can’t be right to prosecute a person who has no choice other than to use medicinal cannabis to alleviate serious symptoms of a condition such as multiple sclerosis.
“I cannot see a situation where it would be in the public interest to prosecute a person in such circumstances.
“The law needs to be reviewed so that we no longer put seriously ill people through the humiliation and trauma of a police raid, arrest and prosecution only for the prosecution to be later halted because it is, so obviously, not in the public interest to continue it. The law clearly needs to change.”
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