Royal Mail increasingly used for drug delivery


A look into how the Royal Mail is dealing with high levels of drugs being sent through the service

Article Image

Image by

By Charis Ramsey

The postman is the new vital link in the drug dealing chain. Due to the rate at which the use of the dark web is moving into the mainstream, people are increasingly buying drugs on the internet, all of which are delivered through the postal service. The most common drugs purchased through the dark web are marijuana, cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and novel drugs.

The dark web has become more and more accessible, with most of its popularity gained through word of mouth; especially the sale of drugs on the dark web. It is arguably the easiest and most reliable way to get drugs. There is a lack of accountability or sense of danger compared with meeting a dealer on the street. In 2017, the Global Drug Survey found that one fifth people who took part in the survey and used drugs had bought them online.

A 2017 BBC Newsbeat documentary contacted postmen for comment about what the Royal Mail was doing to battle the recent increase in drugs sent through the postal service. Most postmen highlighted that during the 14 years plus of working in the service, most had never seen a sniffer dog, despite claims by the Royal Mail that they are being used. One postman described a case where he came across marijuana in his mail bag he smelt it and told his managers, who told him to deliver it and tell the recipient to “be more careful next time.” The Government drug testing centre recently suggested that if every package were searched it would take a month, or two, or three for any post to be delivered.

The claims about an increase of drugs purchased through the dark web can be confirmed by the Global Drug Survey (GDS) report 2019. Dark net markets have now been operating for eight years. Since 2017 there has been a reduction in the number of English language crypto markets (where multiple vendors are located) and an increase in single-vendor markets and non-English language markets. The sample used for the survey includes almost 60,000 respondents who completed the dark net market section this year, all of whom reported lifetime use of drugs.

According to the Global Drug Survey report, only 5 per cent of users of the dark net in 2019 were from England. Of these, the majority were male, and the largest age demographic of users were between 21 and 25. The report demonstrated that in England 28.6 per cent of users had recently obtained drugs through the dark net, compared with Finland where 45.2 per cent had. There has been much change in usage of the dark net. In 2014, 12.4 percent of UK respondents were buying drugs from the dark net. By 2019, it is 28.6 per cent. The second highest occurrence of respondents buying drugs from the dark net was Australia, with a much lower figure of 14.9 per cent in 2019.

A recent case at the Newcastle Crown Court found Steven Taylor, of Jarrow, guilty of attempting to supply a controlled Class B drug and possession of Class B drug with intent. Sorting police staff in Gateshead who found a parcel with two plastic cylinders marked “medical cannabis” discovered his dealing. The value of the cannabis was predicted to be between £40 and £60. Following this discovery the police decided to search his home, finding 92.31g of cannabis. The court heard that Taylor claimed the cylinders were for “storage” and he denied sending the envelope that was seized by the police, even though his fingerprints were on it.

Divisional commander chief superintendent George MacDonald of the Highlands said of drugs in the postal service, “it is a multi- faceted problem. Supply routes are on the streets, conventionally, via the internet- through the postal service”. In June 2018 alone, officers in the highlands recovered illegal drugs with a combined value of almost £100,000 and in 2018 officers seized 3.4kg of cannabis, 1.5kg of cocaine, 2.3kg of heroin and around 12,000 tablets.

The Royal Mail responded to this case, explaining what it is doing to try and stop the transfer of drugs through the service. According to a spokeswoman, they work closely on the ground with law enforcement agencies, including the police for domestic mail and with border force for international mail. She said; “these agencies help us stop the carriage and delivery of illegal drugs that are ordered on the dark web.”

The border force postal command are also stationed at major international operations and are solely dedicated to preventing the smuggling of illicit drugs through the postal system. Furthermore, there is supposedly X-ray screening of suspicious items and sniffer dog deployment, with Royal Mail staff actively encouraged to report any suspicious items.

However, it is clear that the increase in drugs being sent through the Royal Mail is putting immense pressure on the postal service. New screening technology is being trialled for adoption in the UK. However, there still aren’t enough bodies on the ground. A lack of co-ordination between the postal service, the police and the government is reducing the efficiency of the discovery of illegal substances, and potentially putting people’s lives at risk, a more joined up approach is needed.