Partner Hannah Jones comments on an interesting recent case that was before the Court of Appeal. “Were the flowers that you recently purchased from the florist “picked” or “mown”? This may seem like an unnecessarily fine distinction but it was a distinction that recently became crucial for a trader in dried flowers in Ipswich”.
The trader had imported from the Netherlands two consignments of dried poppy heads with a view to satisfying orders for decorative poppy heads in the United States of America. The consignments were, however, seized at the border and a summons issued by the UK Border Agency seeking their destruction because they were deemed to be “poppy straw” under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
When the case had come to the Crown Court, it was accepted that the defendant was at all material times a trader in dried flowers (i.e. not a drug trafficker). The Court also accepted his representations that the consignments had been picked by a team who harvested the seeds by hand from a specially adapted trailer. The seedheads were then sorted and dried.
The Crown Court found that the two consignments were within the definition of poppy straw in the 1971 act. The Crown Court found that “mowing” meant harvesting, reaping, picking or other removal from the soil. The Crown Court concluded that there could be no sensible doubt that the defendant had imported poppy straw, however much he might wish it otherwise.
The Appeal court, however, disagreed. In the view of the Court of Appeal, it was clear that care had to have been taken in obtaining and drying the poppy heads in the two consignments and that, in the absence of this care, they would not have been of use to a floristry supplier because their decorative quality would have been lost. It was also argued that, as a matter of the ordinary use of language, it would not be said that bunches of tulips or daffodils or poppies that could be used in flower arrangements had been mown. Rather, it would be said that they had been picked or harvested as flowers.
If the wide approach taken by the Crown Court was right there would be no need for any reference in the Act to “mowing” or any other means of removal from the land because before any issue of exportation and importation arose the poppies had to have been separated from the land.
It was easy to see that the poppy heads in issue had been harvested with care and therefore, as matter of the ordinary use of language, had not been mown. As such, the consignments were not “poppy straw”.
The trader was allowed to take his consignments and satisfy his orders for decorative poppy heads in the United States of America.
If you would like assistance in criminal related issues, call Hannah on 023 9282 0747.
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