VIDEO: Police promise to enforce 'legal highs' ban

VIDEO: Police promise to enforce 'legal highs' ban

Published at 6:43am 26th May 2016. (Updated at 4:55pm 26th May 2016)

Police in North and West Yorkshire are pledging to take action against people producing, supplying and importing so-called 'legal highs'. 

From today, the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 has come into force.

Commander Simon Bray, National Police Chiefs' Council Lead for New Psychoactive Substances, said: "This new legislation is a very positive step forward. Police are ready to enforce the new law and tackle the harm caused in communities by the sale and use of drugs. As with all drugs, our approach will be practical, proportionate and based on the individual circumstances.

"Forces are committed to reducing the harm caused by all drugs, but we cannot do this alone - prevention, education and health service all have a crucial role to play."

Chief Inspector Lindsey Stamp, of North Yorkshire Police, added: "Our message has always been clear that these substances are extremely dangerous. The term 'legal highs' led some people to believe that they were safe, but nothing could be further from the truth. Users can never be sure of what exactly is in them, or what their effects might be, which makes using them a huge risk.

"In the past, suppliers of new psychoactive substances have sidestepped the law by using ingredients that mimic the effects of controlled drugs. This legislation will now enable us, with the help of our partners, to prevent such substances from causing further harm to our communities.

"Please let us know if you are aware of anyone continuing to supply psychoactive substances once the Act commences on 26 May - we can and will take action against them."

The legislation can be enforced using prohibition notices, premises notices, prohibition orders and premises orders, which allow police or local authorities to require people to stop stocking, selling or supplying psychoactive substances.

Officers have been given powers to stop and search people, vehicles and vessels, enter and search premises with a warrant, and to seize and destroy psychoactive substances.

North Yorkshire Police says it will send hard-hitting messages on social media, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, highlighting the impact of the new legislation, using the hashtag #PSAct.

Commander Bray added: "Police forces, Trading Standards, border forces and other organisations have been working hard to tackle the supply of controlled and non-controlled new psychoactive substances, but a blanket ban will make it simpler to deal with those drugs that are unsafe but may not yet be controlled. It will also make it easier to tackle so-called 'legal highs' which may contain mixtures including already illegal drugs." 

In West Yorkshire, officers have been visiting premises and people known to be distributing psychoactive substances to offer advice about the new legislation and what it means to them.

Police say they will revisit premises regularly and take appropriate action where necessary.

Detective Chief Inspector Warren Stevenson talks about the changes in this video:

 

Mark Burns-Williamson, Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, 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."

Lesley Smith’s son nearly died after taking psychoactive substances in Bradford 2013.

She said: "My then 15-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 head shop 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 soaring 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."

More information on psychoactive substances at www.westyorkshire.police.uk/illegalhighs

Anyone with information or suspicions about psychoactive substances or those suspected of producing or distributing them can contact their local Neighbourhood Policing Team via 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Information can also be passed to Crimestoppers online at crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/give-information-online