People found to be in possession of cannabis for personal use can avoid a criminal conviction if they admit the offence and accept a caution, Garda has announced.

The offence is one of four to have been approved and added to the Adult Cautioning Scheme (ACS) by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The scheme allows primarily first-time offenders who have made a mistake a chance to avoid a criminal conviction and to avoid damaging their reputations.

It is supervised by Garda and can only be used once for a single person, but it’s believed it will save gardai the unnecessary effort and cost of bringing such matters before the courts.

Three additional offences have been added to the ACS including: trespass likely to cause fear, casual trading and breaching a barrier at an event.

Minor offences such as theft, damage to or handling of stolen property worth less than €1,000, being drunk and disorderly, or failing to comply with Garda directions in certain circumstances, are already part of the scheme.

Cannabis use continues to rise

Figures to mid-2019 show just over 2,000 cases of drug possession for personal use – a rise of 17.4 per cent on the previous year. The majority are believed to be instances of cannabis possession.

The act means that a person found to be in possession of cannabis for personal use will not be recorded as having a criminal offence and as a result will not have any detrimental effect on Garda vetting or visa applications.

An adult caution can not be used in the case of any other illegal drug possession.

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