Legal Highs: New legislation comes into force

Today (Thursday 26 May 2016) legislation has come in to force changing the law around the production and distribution of psychoactive substances, commonly known as ‘legal highs’.

From today it is now illegal to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, import or export psychoactive substances.

The new legislation targets those who sell these potentially lethal substances and provides the police with greater powers to take action against those who produce or supply them.

Detective Chief Inspector Warren Stevenson said; “The change in legislation affects all retailers, and guidance has already, and will continue to be issued nationally and locally to those thought to be intentionally, and unknowingly selling psychoactive substances. Certain items are exempt from the act, however it will be an offence to supply, or offer to supply psychoactive substances and the police will be able to stop and search people, vehicles as well as premises and not only seize but also destroy psychoactive substances.

“We have tried to ensure that all retail outlets- shops, garages, market stalls and internet suppliers are aware of their obligations under the new act and that their organisations or business are not selling or in any other way dealing in psychoactive substances by conducting extensive visits at premises in the run up to the bill.

Officers from across the Force have been visiting premises and those known to be distributing psychoactive substances in the run up to today to offer advice about the legislation change and what it means to them. Premises will be revisited regularly to enforce the new legislation and where necessary, officers will take appropriate action.

Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for West Yorkshire Mark Burns Williamson said “I have previously called for the existing laws to be tightened up to reflect this rapidly changing problem facing our communities. With more psychoactive substances constantly introduced into the market West Yorkshire Police have been at the forefront of leading the way with partners in tackling this growing problem. For example we had the first successful prosecution of its kind in the country in Leeds, but it’s very important that retailers and others know about the human impact and their moral responsibility to stop selling these drugs which we now know can devastate families and the lives of those that use them.

“It is testament to our partnership and innovative working that West Yorkshire Police have been praised for helping keep these substances off our streets and now it will be an offence to supply, or offer to supply psychoactive substances. I welcome that the police will now have greater and appropriate powers to ensure those breaking the law are dealt with severely in trying to lessen the very harmful wider impact on our streets and in communities.”

DCI Stevenson added; “Psychoactive substances mimic the effect of controlled drugs and are not safe to take. They are rather unhelpfully often referred to as “legal highs” which leads people to think that if they are legal, they must also be safe. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and sadly we have incidents where people have ended up seriously ill in hospital, and also some deaths following on from people taking these substances. We are utilising a number of methods, along with our partners to educate both users and suppliers in an effort to avoid retailers falling foul of the new law and at the same time making West Yorkshire a safer place to be including making people feel safer within West Yorkshire communities.

“West Yorkshire Police has been running Operation Nightshot since 2012, a multi-agency campaign aimed at raising awareness of the potential dangers of using these substances. As part of this campaign, DC Jamie Hudson has used existing legislation in innovative ways to prosecute suppliers and protect consumers. The change in legislation today, will assist police in dealing with this unregulated industry and it will go some way in reducing the availability of these often dangerous substances to users.”

Lesley Smith’s* son almost died following taking psychoactive substances in Bradford 2013. “My then 16-year-old son asked if he could have some friends round on New Year’s Eve whilst we went to a party. Unbeknown to us, he and his friends had bought from a headshop in Bradford. After taking the substance they all started having really bad reactions, he called me, but passed out whilst on the phone. We contacted neighbours and rushed home to find him and his friends being rushed to A&E after collapsing and fitting on the floor. We were told that due to his soring heart rate to prepare ourselves for the worst. It was terrifying; the worst thing I could ever have imagined happening. Thankfully, and by some miracle, the following day, his condition improved and all three boys were discharged from hospital.

The stuff they had taken, cost about £8 from a so called head shop. £8 that nearly killed my son. Any change in the law that helps to reduce the availability of these frightening substances to young people is a good thing. No parent should have to go what we went through. It’s hard to say, but we were lucky, the reality is that the ‘legal high’ he and his friends bought, nearly killed them.”


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