Call for sale of so called 'legal highs' to be reviewed (21 Mar 2014)

West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner has issued a warning to shopkeepers about the consequences of selling "legal highs". 

Mark Burns Williamson said that a recent prosecution of a Leeds retailer for selling goods he knew would be used for drugs, and the other raids on shops in Leeds and Bradford demonstrated the hard hitting approach that West Yorkshire Police, along with community safety partnerships were taking. 

The raids came amid suspicions that retailers were selling "legal highs" which included substances suspected to be the subject of temporary bans.

 Earlier this month there was a landmark prosecution against the boss of the Fantasia shop on Ludgate Hill in Leeds for supplying articles used to administer or prepare controlled drugs.  

The Home Affairs Select Committee has already praised West Yorkshire Police's use of existing drug legislation to tackle the problem of "legal highs". 

Now a briefing note and covering letter, endorsed by the Chief Constable Mark Gilmore and Mr Burns Williamson, will be sent out for circulation to all police and crime commissioners, detailing the success of the prosecution in Leeds for selling "legal highs". 

They will also communicate the decision made by Leeds Magistrates Court to all members of the West Yorkshire Local Criminal Justice Board. 

Mr Burns Williamson is now calling for the existing laws to be tightened up to reflect the rapidly changing problem facing communities with more "legal highs" constantly introduced into the market as existing ones are banned. 

He also warned retailers that if they were found selling banned "legal high" substances they would be charged with possession with intent to supply. 

Mr Burns Williamson said: "The issue of "legal highs" is getting worse and we are seeing an increase in people dying and being admitted to hospital as a result of taking these substances so we all need to do more. 

"I will be asking Government to update the policies and laws that exist around such drugs to reflect the rapidly changing problem we are facing with "legal highs" because every time a chemical substance gets banned, another one is introduced into the shops. The sale of them needs to be urgently reviewed with retailers facing harsher penalties if they are found selling them to minors. 

"West Yorkshire Police is leading the way with partners in tackling this problem, for example we have had the first successful prosecution in the country in Leeds, but I want retailers to know they have a moral responsibility to stop selling these drugs over the counter because if they are found to be doing this, with substances currently banned, they will be dealt with severely. 

"The use of drugs, including these "legal highs", can devastate families and the lives of those that use them, and I will be calling on the Government to look at tightening the legislation, which is unclear, or updating it because currently we have to use existing laws to prosecute.

"But it is testament to partner working that we have been praised as leading the way in keeping these so called "legal highs" off our streets. 

"I would urge all retailers who haven't signed up to the Register of Responsible Retailers, which means they either agree not to sell "legal highs" or if they do, to not sell to those aged under 18, to do so."

© Copyright West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner 2019