In February 1967, two members of The Rolling Stones, lead singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards were arrested at Richards’ home, Redlands, West Wittering, Sussex for drug possession. The raid had been preceded by a major campaign by the tabloid newspaper the News of the World, whom Jagger was suing for libel at the time, and who carried lurid stories regarding Jagger and his girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull.
Although convicted—and having spent a night in prison—a publicity campaign by their colleagues in the music industry encouraged popular support and criticism of the decision to prosecute them. Most notably, the traditionally-conservative newspaper The Times published an op-ed by William Rees-Mogg asking Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?, in which he criticized the prosecutions as unfounded and unnecessary.
Following a tip-off from the News of the World on Sunday 12, February, Detective Sergeant Norman Pilcher led a squad of 18 officers—including two female constables in case it became necessary to perform a body search on Faithfull—which had been tipped off by his chauffeur raided a party at Keith Richards’ home, Redlands. No arrests were made at the time, but Jagger, Richards and their friend art dealer Robert Fraser were subsequently charged with drug offenses. It was believed that Jagger, Richards and Faithfull were coming down from an all-day acid trip.
In his autobiography, Richards later described how, “there’s a knock on the door, I look out the window, and there’s this whole lot of dwarves outside … I’d never been busted before, and I’m still on acid.” The police discovered little sign of illegality: a few roaches, amphetamine pills from Jagger’s Italian supplier, and Fraser was found in possession of heroin. It is likely that the pills were Faithfull’s but that Jagger claimed them as his own to save her from arrest.
The News of the World reported that when the police entered Faithfull had just had a shower and had had to put a fur rug over herself. She later described how, as a side effect of their comedowns, they kept breaking into laughter while the police searched the house, “collecting sticks of incense and miniature bars of hotel soap.” The police told Richards that, under the DDA, he was held responsible as the property owner for any drugs discovered, to which Richards said, “I see. They pin it all on me.” Meanwhile, Jones had phoned to say he had finished his work on “Mord” and was about to drive down; “don’t bother,” replied Richards, telling him “we’ve been busted.”
Although Jagger, Richards and Fraser were released the following day, it soon became clear, argues Goodman, that “the government was serious” about sending them to prison. Originally charged at Chichester Magistrates Court on May 10, Jagger and Richards pled not guilty and availed themselves of their right to a trial by jury. The case was heard at Chichester Crown Court before Judge Leslie Kenneth Allen Block. They were remanded to Lewes Prison to await sentencing on July 27. The subsequent arrest of Richards and Jagger put them on trial before the British courts, whilst also trying them in the court of public opinion. On June 19, 1967, Jagger was sentenced a £200 fine and to three months’ imprisonment for possession of four amphetamine tablets. Richards was found guilty of allowing cannabis to be smoked on his property and sentenced to one year in prison and a £500 fine. Both Jagger and Richards were imprisoned at that point: Jagger was taken to Brixton Prison in south London, and Richards to Wormwood Scrubs Prison in west London. Fraser received a year and did not appeal. Both were released on bail the next day pending appeal. They were represented in court by the barrister Michael Havers.
Richards said in 2003, “When we got busted at Redlands, it suddenly made us realize that this was a whole different ball game and that was when the fun stopped. Up until then, it had been as though London existed in a beautiful space where you could do anything you wanted.” On the treatment of the man responsible for the raid, he later added: “As I heard it, he never walked the same again.”