MS sufferer denies cannabis possession




Published date: September 26, 2000

Author: Sinead McIntyre


A MULTIPLE sclerosis sufferer has told a court she kept cannabis in her home because it eased her condition.

Cumbria Police discovered less than eight grams of the drug, worth almost 40, in a tin when they raided Lezley Gibson's home at Alston, Cumbria, in August last year.

The 36-year-old denies one charge of possession of cannabis.

Graham Nowles, prosecuting, told Carlisle Crown Court that Gibson admitted keeping the cannabis to smoke but pleaded not guilty on the grounds of necessity.

He told a jury of seven women and five men: "She doesn't dispute it was cannabis or it was hers. There is also no dispute she was going to use it.

"You may wonder why we are here. If you have cannabis, it's a criminal offence and that's the end of the matter but this is an unusual case.

"Before you can begin to understand, let me tell you this, when she was interviewed by the police the defendant said: 'Yes it's mine, yes I'm going to smoke it', and the reason was that she suffered from multiple sclerosis and has done so for some years.

"Her case is that smoking cannabis gives her relief from her symptoms which she doesn't get by other means."

Mr Nowles said the case was unusual.

"What this defendant says is, I'm not guilty of the offence because I have a legal defence to it, because I have the defence of necessity."

The prosecutor told the jury that they had a number of questions to consider.

They had to decide whether the defendant had cannabis because she believed it was necessary to avoid death or serious injury.

They must also consider whether or not she had mixed motives for possessing the drug.

And they had to decide whether her possession of cannabis was "reasonable and proportionate" and whether it was right.

Mr Nowles said the prosecution did not accept Gibson's defence.

"The prosecution does not accept that she has a defence in this case, the prosecution does not accept that what she did was necessary to avoid death or serious injury, the prosecution does not accept that what she did was reasonable and proportionate."

He said it was not a case of whether the law was fair or not, or whether it should be changed, but a case of whether the accused was guilty or not under the law.

Mr Nowles said: "You no doubt, will have sympathy for her when you hear the evidence about her condition. You would have sympathy, no doubt, for any person with multiple sclerosis or any similar disease.

"I don't say to you sympathy is unimportant but it is not what the case is about." He said the case rested on whether it was necessary for Gibson to take cannabis to avoid death or serious injury.

Mr Nowles said the fact that cannabis could not be prescribed by any doctor in this country, unlike other controlled drugs such as heroin and cocaine, was not something that could be disregarded by the jury.

Later Gibson's GP Michael Hanley said she was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a condition which attracts the central nervous system, 15 years ago.

Over the years she has had six relapses, including paralysis and partial paralysis of limbs, dizziness, loss of balance, slurring of speech and severe loss of sight in her left eye.

Dr Hanley said he could see cannabis would be helpful to multiple sclerosis sufferers. "I can see that it would be very helpful as from hearsay of patients it does seem to be able t help their condition."

He said he understood cannabis could help with the pain of muscle spasms - a symptom of multiple sclerosis. But he said he had no record of when Gibson began using cannabis and could not comment on whether it had alleviated her condition.

The case was adjourned until today.