A MARRIED couple from North Cumbria have been found not guilty of cannabis charges after it was concluded there was no public interest in pursuing a prosecution against them.
Multiple sclerosis sufferer Lesley Gibson and her partner, Mark, had been due to stand trial at Carlisle Crown Court today (MON).
The couple, both aged 55, had denied three charges. One alleged the production of class B controlled drug cannabis; one alleged the possession of cannabis bush; and a third alleged the possession of cannabis contained within chocolate bars.
The charges were brought after the Gibsons’ Carlisle home was raided in January, 2019, by police who confiscated 10 baby cannabis plants and three homemade cannabis chocolate bars.
The couple’s legal team submitted they had “no option but to cultivate cannabis in their home to manage Lesley’s MS, as Lesley was unable to access an NHS prescription, while the cost of a private prescription was prohibitive”.
Mrs Gibson had for many years been prescribed Sativex, a spray containing cannabis plant extracts which was provided on the NHS and eased her suffering before being withdrawn.
It emerged today that Mrs Gibson was now in receipt of a different cannabis-derived medicine, prescribed lawfully and privately.
Prosecutor Brendan Burke told the court there had been “unlawful production” of cannabis after the initial prescription was withdrawn. But having considered background reports and information, a decision had been not to pursue legal proceedings against Mrs Gibson although only, he emphasised, on “public interest grounds”. The same conclusion was reached in respect of her husband, the prosecution having regarded his involvement being “motivated by seeking to address his wife’s problems”.
No evidence was offered against the couple, formerly of Alston, and there was jubilant applause from the public gallery as not guilty verdicts were formally entered before Recorder Michael Duck QC stated: “Mr and Mrs Gibson you are free to leave.”
Speaking afterwards, Mrs Gibson described an “awful” recent ordeal which was said to have taken a “heavy toll” on the pair, but said of the ruling: “It’s wonderful news and I’m just really pleased that the judge was so fair.”
Of private prescription medication which costs £700 a month, she added: “Now I’ve got a huge credit card bill, but I’m legal. I’ve been found not guilty and that’s the important thing. Hopefully it will pave the way for a change.
“They’ve got to do something. They can’t keep turning us into ‘criminals’. I’m not a criminal. I’m not a bad person. I’ve never done anything wrong in my life, and to find myself here at court with all this silliness is really quite unreal.”