Carol McCrone has been charged with drug related offences after drugs were discovered in her car which was stopped by officers on the A9. She submitted a preliminary appeal arguing that she had been unlawfully detaine. 

The incident occurred on the 24th of August 2021 when two officers were given information regarding a vehicle that was suspected to be carrying illegal substances. The said officers spotted this vehicle, and stopped the car on the A9. Approximately one minute after the initial stop, an unmarked police car arrived and provided information regarding the illegal substances. McCrone was detained at this point and a large quantity of drugs were seized. 

It was the position of the appellant that the traffic stop was unlawful as the officers had been directed to look for her vehicle despite no direct information that she was carrying drugs. It was the position of the crown that the road traffic stop was a legitimate stop under the Road Traffic Act 1988 and that the drug related detention occurred later after other officers had arrived.

The appeal sheriff was not convinced by McCrones argument. They believed that the traffic officers had not detained the appellant, merely performed a routine stop under the Road Traffic Act 1988 to verify her identity and check her licence.

Lord Carloway, delivering the opinion of the court, began: “This is an example of a common situation. Police officers receive intelligence that controlled drugs are being transported by car on a public highway. They will often (as here) be in an unmarked car and presumably in plain clothes. Since they are not in uniform they do not have the power to stop a car and it would be a dangerous thing to attempt. They therefore ask uniformed officers in a marked police vehicle to stop the car under suspicion, pending their arrival.”

He continued: “Whether a person has been detained in terms of section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is primarily a matter of fact for the court of first instance to determine. The decision can only be impugned if the court has erred in law or in the assessment of the circumstances.”

Asking whether the sheriff had made the right decision, Lord Carloway said: “The sheriff has found as fact that the traffic officers stopped the appellant pursuant to their powers under sections 163 and 164 of the 1988 Act. The fact that they had been told that it was suspected that the car was carrying drugs does not remove their powers to stop it for a routine check.”

The appeal was refused.