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265

Seizures of drugs in England and Wales, 2003
Lungowe Mwenda, Maryam Ahmad and Kavita Kumari
This Findings presents figures for drug seizures made by law enforcement agencies in
England and Wales during 2003 – the statistics relate to drugs controlled under the Misuse
of Drugs Act 1971. The drugs are divided into three categories in the Act (classes A, B and
C) according to their harmfulness. These statistics cover seizures made during the year by
police (including the British Transport Police but excluding Nottinghamshire Police Force,
from whom no data was received in 2003), together with information from HM Revenue &
Customs (formerly HM Customs & Excise) and the National Crime Squad. Historic national
data from HM Revenue & Customs prior to 2000 is no longer wholly available. Caution
must therefore be exercised in drawing comparisons in the level of drug seizures over time.
It should be noted that this Findings presents data for England and Wales only and is
therefore not comparable with the previous Drug Seizures statistical publications which
presented data for the whole of the UK. Cannabis was reclassified as a class C substance
in January 2004, but as the data presented here is for 2003, cannabis is reported as a
class B substance.

Key points
● There were 109,410 drug seizures by police and HM Revenue & Customs in England and

Wales in 2003 – 4% fewer than in the previous year (114,550). 77% of seizures in 2003
involved class B drugs (most – 94% – of which were cannabis seizures). 27% of seizures
involved class A drugs and 1% involved class C.
● Compared with 2002, in 2003 there were more class A seizures (up 5%); fewer class B

seizures (5% fewer) and more class C seizures (up 6%).
● Seizures by the police and HM Revenue & Customs in 2003, included:

6.8 tonnes of cocaine


2.7 tonnes of heroin
6.7 million tablets of ecstasy

1.5 tonnes of amphetamines

99 tonnes of cannabis (resin and herbal) and 80,000 cannabis plants.

● Police and HM Revenue & Customs seized a greater quantity of cocaine, heroin, ecstasy,

amphetamines and cannabis in 2003 than in 2002.

© Crown copyright 2005
ISSN 1473-8406
Printed by: TABS

The views expressed in these findings are those of the authors, not
necessarily those of the Home Office (nor do they reflect Government policy)

Findings 265
The number of drug seizures (Table 1)
The police and HM Revenue & Customs made 109,410
drug seizures in England and Wales in 2003 – 4% fewer
than in the previous year (114,550).
Class A drug seizures

Heroin was the most commonly seized class A drug in
2003 (10,570 seizures, down 16% since 2002) followed
by cocaine (6,910 seizures, up 20%), ecstasy (6,110
seizures, down 8% since 2002) and crack (4,760 seizures,
up 15%). A small number of seizures involved methadone
and LSD (530 and 120 seizures respectively).

There were 30,000 seizures in England and Wales
involving class A drugs in 2003 (5% more than in 2002).
Table 1 Number of seizures* of class A drugs by drug type and year, England and Wales
Drug type

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

Cocaine

1,250

1,760

2,400

3,470

4,670

5,400

5,400

6,530

5,750

6,910

Crack

1,320

1,440

1,340

1,680

2,470

2,470

2,640

3,580

4,150

4,760

Heroin

3,840

5,600

8,570 10,500

12,680

12,730

LSD1

1,910

970

920

710

530

400

240

150

50

120

Ecstasy-type2

3,010

4,720

4,870

4,240

4,050

5,410

7,990

8,600

6,660

6,110

690

890

1,240

1,450

1,460

1,090

1,010

900

720

530

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

810

800

670

700

760

740

730

640

870

690

11,770 14,920 18,700 21,260

24,740

26,290

11,450 13,720 15,980 16,210

16,320

11,560

6,120

6,010

5,850

5,860

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Cannabis (herbal) 22,850 22,330 23,450 25,420

28,660

24,840

3,570

2,700

2,160

Cannabis resin

49,370 51,590 51,940 63,830

68,180

58,590

50,600 47,580

45,680 41,770

Total cannabis

71,790 73,860 74,270 87,370

93,190

80,020

76,410 77,480

83,510 78,520

210

290

79,710 83,470 85,930 98,760 105,770

89,680

Class A drugs

Methadone
Morphine
Other class A 3
All class A

13,140 14,630

28,920 32,280

12,630 10,570

28,540 30,000

Class B drugs
Amphetamines
Barbiturates

Cannabis plants

Other class B
All class B

0

5,360

130

0

5,830

110

0

4,650

210

240

26,860 31,200
1,890

310

1,710

310

80,030 80,830

40,230 35,510
2,200

260

2,680

200

88,520 83,700

Class C drugs
Benzodiazepines

790

970

990

1,230

1,390

1,220

910

970

980

860

Temazepam

0

80

460

390

340

270

240

280

190

190

Anabolic steroids

0

0

30

130

150

110

80

130

120

180

GHB

30

50

40

40

50

50

60

50

70

50

80

830

1,070

1,440

1,710

1,860

1,620

1,250

1,390

1,300

1,380

Other class C
All class C
All drugs

88,420 94,510 100,740 116,990126,490 112,410 107,620 111,930 114,550 109,410

Notes: Totals are rounded to the nearest 10. * A seizure can involve more than one drug, individual drugs figures cannot be added together
to produce totals. 1. Seizures of unspecified quantities are not included. 2. MDMA prior to 1996. 3. Includes opium and pethidine.

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Findings 265
Class B drug seizures

Class B drugs

In 2003, 83,700 seizures involved class B drugs: 5% fewer
than in 2002. The vast majority of class B seizures in this
year were cannabis seizures – 78,520 (94%) of all class B
seizures in 2003. Cannabis resin was involved in the largest
number of cannabis seizures (41,770), followed by herbal
cannabis (35,510 seizures) and cannabis plants (2,680
seizures). There were 5,860 seizures of amphetamines –
broadly unchanged since 2002.

A greater volume of class B drugs was seized in 2003
compared with 2002. Almost 99 tonnes of herbal
cannabis and cannabis resin was seized in 2003, as were
80,500 cannabis plants. The amount of herbal cannabis
seized fell by 15% in 2003 (to 29.5 tonnes from 34.9
tonnes) but just over 69 tonnes of cannabis resin was
recovered – a 67% rise from the previous year. There was
also an increase in the number of cannabis plants seized –
up by 54% from 2002. Over 1.5 tonnes of amphetamines
was seized in 2003, compared to just under 1.2 tonnes in
2002 (an increase of 31%).

Class C drug seizures
Overall there were 1,380 class C drug seizures in 2003
(6% up from 2002). The most commonly seized class C
drugs were benzodiazepines (860 seizures, down 12%
since 2002) followed by temazepam (190 seizures, the
same as 2002) and anabolic steroids (180 seizures, up
from 120 in 2002).

The quantity of drugs seized in England and
Wales in 2003 (Table 2)
There can be considerable fluctuation in the quantities of
drugs seized over time. Whilst most drug seizures consist
of relatively small quantities (for example, just over half of
all heroin seizures and around a third of crack and
cocaine seizures involve quantities of less than one gram),
annual totals of drugs seized can be greatly influenced by
a small number of large seizures. These are generally
made by HM Revenue & Customs.
Class A drugs
Overall the volume of class A drugs seized in 2003 was
greater than that seized in 2002:

Class C drugs
In general the quantity of class C drugs seized each year is
relatively small and fluctuates considerably year on year.
Aside from anabolic steroids, of which 160 kg were seized
in 2003 (compared with 400 kg in 2002), relatively small
quantities of other class C drugs were seized: 40 kg of
GHB and 10 kg of benzodiazepines.

Purity of drugs
Data on the average purity of different types of drugs is
obtained from the Forensic Science Service and is based
on the average of all analysed drug samples submitted to
the Forensic Science Service. In general, the purity from
HM Revenue & Customs seizures is higher than that of the
police force seizures, reflecting the fact that their seizures
will tend to be made higher in the supply chain and before
‘cutting’ occurs (the addition of active agents to increase
profit margins). For both police and HM Revenue &
Customs seizures, the purity of all drugs seized in 2003
was lower than those seized in 2002 (Table 3).

• 6.8 tonnes of cocaine seized in 2003, almost
twice as much as in 2002
• 6.7 million tablets of ecstasy-type drugs, 64%
higher than the volume of seizures in 2002
• just under 2.7 tonnes of heroin, a 2% rise from
2002.
The quantities of other class A drugs seized in 2003 were
considerably smaller:
• 250 kg of crack (five times more than that seized
in 2002)
• 60 kg of methadone (a 20% rise from the
previous year)
• 10,000 doses of LSD, broadly unchanged since
2002.

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Findings 265

Table 2 Quantity of seizures* of class A drugs by drug type and year, England and Wales
(quantity seized in kilograms*)
Drug type

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

Cocaine

30

60

880

1,310

880

1,420

3,900

5,210

3,500

6,810

Crack

10

10

10

40

30

40

30

50

50

250

Heroin

160

350

380

540

460

1,440

3,330

4,000

2,620

2,660

LSD1

120

340

70

40

30

30

10

10

10

10

Ecstasy-type2

680

420

180

490

970

2,030

5,700

6,280

4,100

6,730

50

50

90

110

80

180

380

100

50

60

Morphine

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Other class A

0

0

20

0

40

50

10

10

30

30

690

410

1,720

650

550

990

1,620

1,590

1,170

1,530

0

0

0

0

0

540

10

0

0

0

Cannabis (herbal) 46,750

1,110

5,830 10,670

4,020

9,920

27,140 30,400

34,870 29,520

Cannabis plants

54,280 91,650 113,650 77,570

70,020

53,060

45,460 67,700

52,140 80,500

Cannabis resin

10,150

15,590

19,280

44,910 59,530

41,410 69,030

Class A drugs

Methadone

Class B drugs
Amphetamines
Barbiturates

Other class B

4,440 20,450 61,270

0

0

0

0

0

10

0

10

0

0

Benzodiazepines

0

0

0

0

0

10

0

10

0

10

Temazepam

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Anabolic steroids

0

0

0

60

40

140

20

80

400

160

GHB

40

10

03

04

Class C drugs

Other class C

0

0

50

0

0

0

0

Notes: Totals are rounded to the nearest 10. * Drugs are seized in a variety of forms but where possible, for the purpose of this
table, amounts have been converted to weights (kg), except for LSD and ecstasy-type drugs which are shown in thousands of
doses and cannabis plants. 1. Seizures of unspecified quantities are not included. 2. MDMA prior to 1996. 3. HM Revenue &
Customs seized 580 doses of temazepam, 312,858 doses of benzodiazepines and 36,401 doses of other class C drugs. 4. HM
Revenue & Customs also seized the following number of tablets/doses: 3,140 benzodiazepines, 26 methadone, 1,856 of other
class A drugs and 64 of other class B drugs.

Table 3 Average purity of drug seizures analysed by the
Forensic Science Service by drug type and agency for 2002
and 2003
2002

2003

Amphetamines

HM R&C
Police

49.3
14.3

40
11

Cocaine

HM R&C
Police

71
61

69.8
50.5

Crack

HM R&C
Police

80
71.3

75.5
69.5

Heroin

HM R&C
Police

43.8
39.8

36.5
32.8

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Findings 265
seizures involved class A drugs, compared with 30% of
seizures by HM Revenue & Customs and 27% of seizures
made by local police forces.

Who seized what?
Number of seizures (Table 4)
Overall, 95% of drug seizures in 2003 were made by local
police forces, fewer than 5% by HM Revenue & Customs and
less than 1% by the National Crime Squad. Police forces
accounted for 95% of all class A seizures, 96% of all class B
seizures and 83% of all class C seizures.

Seizures by police forces and HM Revenue & Customs
were more likely to involve class B drugs: 77% of police
force seizures and 65% of HM Revenue & Customs seizures
involved class B drugs, compared with 47% of seizures by
the National Crime Squad.

Seizures by the National Crime Squad were more likely to
involve class A drugs: 67% of National Crime Squad

Table 4 Number* and percentage of drug seizures by class, drug type and agency**, England
and Wales, 2003
Police forces
No.
All seizures

National Crime Squad
%

No.

HM Revenue & Customs

%

No.

Totals

%

104,357

95

122

0

4,926

5

109,405

Cocaine

5,710

83

44

1

1,157

17

6,911

Crack

4,724

99

3

0

25

1

4,752

Heroin

10,444

99

19

0

109

1

10,572

123

97

0

0

4

3

127

6,023

98

21

0

74

1

6,118

Methadone

530

99

0

0

3

1

533

Other

589

85

0

0

104

15

693

All class A

28,434

95

82

0

1,478

5

29,994

Cannabis

75,400

96

48

0

3,072

4

78,520

5,776

98

16

0

72

1

5,864

191

97

0

6

3

197

80,426

96

57

0

3,217

4

83,700

Benzodiazepines

723

84

0

141

16

864

Temazepam

188

99

0

1

1

189

Anabolic steroids

107

62

0

66

38

173

GHB

15

65

0

8

35

23

Other

72

86

0

12

14

84

1,151

83

0

231

17

1,382

LSD
Ecstasy-type

Amphetamines
Other
All class B

All class C

Notes: * As a seizure can involve more than one drug, figures for individual drugs cannot be added together to produce totals.
** Seizures from joint operations involving HM Revenue & Customs and the police are recorded against the lead agency.

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Findings 265
Quantity of seizures (Table 5)

In 2003, HM Revenue & Customs seized:
• 72% of all cocaine seized

Whilst local police forces made the greatest number of
seizures in 2003, most of these were quite small. The actual
volume of drugs seized was mainly made by HM Revenue &
Customs. However, there were exceptions:
• seizures of crack and methadone – police
seizures accounted for the majority of total
volumes seized

• 61% of the heroin
• 58% of ecstasy-type drugs
• 45% of amphetamines.
The National Crime Squad also seized significant quantities:
• 13% of all cocaine seized
• 24% of all heroin seized

• cannabis plants – all the seizures made were by
the police.

• 26% of all ecstasy-type drugs seized.

Table 5 Quantities* and percentage of drugs seized by class, drug type and agency**, England
and Wales, 2003
Police forces

National Crime Squad

Quantity

%

1,015

15

Crack

224

Heroin

Totals

%

Quantity

%

896

13

4,902

72

6,813

89

15

6

12

5

251

392

15

646

24

1,619

61

2,657

2

15

0

0

9

85

11

1,079

16

1,750

26

3,901

58

6,730

Methadone

32

55

0

0

26

45

58

Other class A

27

100

0

0

0

27

Cannabis herbal

1,773

6

12,136

41

15,608

53

29,517

Cannabis plants

78,498

98

2,000

2

0

80,498

Cannabis resin

7,645

11

20,216

29

41,168

60

69,029

Amphetamines

313

21

523

34

694

45

1,530

Other class B

1

63

0

1

37

2

Benzodiazepines

3

49

0

3

51

5

Temazepam

0

100

0

0

0

0

Anabolic steroids

0

0

0

157

100

157

GHB

6

15

0

34

85

40

Other class C

1

56

0

1

44

2

Cocaine

LSD
Ecstasy-type

Quantity

HM Revenue &
Customs ***

Notes: Totals are rounded to the nearest whole number. * All quantities are in kilograms except for LSD and ecstasy-type (‘000s of
doses), and cannabis plants (numbers). ** Seizures from joint operations involving HM Revenue & Customs and the police are
recorded against the lead agency. *** HM Revenue & Customs also seized the following number of tablets/doses: 3,140
benzodiazepines, 26 methadone, 1,856 other class A and 646 other class B.

Detailed tables used to produce this Findings are available on the Home Office RDS website:
http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/
Scotland and Northern Ireland data will be produced in separate publications.
Lungowe Mwenda, Maryam Ahmad and Kavita Kumari are in the Crime Reduction and Community Safety Group,
Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate.

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