Doughty Street Barristers win victory in religious drugs importation case

James Wood QC and Ben Cooper recently secured the acquittal of Adrian Freedman for the importation of Ayahuasca for use as a sacramental tea by the Santo Daime church. Many litres of Ayahuasca, a decoction made in South America from a combination of Amazonian plants, which contains the class A drug N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and which is said to have hallucinogenic and magical properties, were imported into the UK from Brazil in 2011 for the European gathering of the church. The case raised issues of Article 9 ECHR rights of religious freedom and Article 7 rights concerning legal uncertainty. Eventually disclosure requests as to the approach of HMCR to prior importations, upon which duty had been charged, led to the Crown reconsidering their case, and eventually offering no evidence.

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