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Vera Baird calls for firm action in tackling Legal Highs – New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)

8th August 2014

Northumbria’s Police & Crime Commissioner Vera Baird QC has today called on the Home Secretary to deliver on her Government’s policy to tackle legal highs and take strong action against those who sell such products.

Legal highs produce similar effects to illegal drugs like cocaine and ecstasy but are not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act as there has not been enough research about them to base a decision on.

New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) cannot be sold for human consumption and are openly marketed with this warning, while others are sold as bath salts or plant food to get around the law. Most fall into one of three categories: stimulants, sedatives or hallucinogens.

The devastating effects of legal highs on families and communities have been seen in the north east and Vera Baird is demanding strong action to tackle the growing epidemic of these substances.

Before her election as Police & Crime Commissioner Mrs Baird raised this matter with the Home Secretary and has recently spoken to Lord Jeremy Beecham about this issue, promising the Peer that Northumbria would raise this matter with the Home Office again.

Mrs Baird said: “I appreciate the Home Office has recently announced banning some of the substances used, but more needs to be done.

“We know the problems involved with tackling those who make the substances, as they change the ingredients to get around the law, so let’s give the Police and Trading Standards the tools to confront those businesses who sell these products.”

Mrs Baird added: “Lord Beecham informed me about the effects legal highs were having on the family of one of his constituents. Though they’re called legal highs, they’re just as addictive as Class A drugs and those who supply legal highs should be dealt with in the same way as those who deal in Class A drugs.”

Northumbria Police and Trading Standards departments across the force area have been working in partnership to try and tackle this problem, but without legislation from the Home Office, securing a conviction has been made more difficult.

Mrs Baird said: “Let’s be under no illusion, I want to see legal highs banned – how this is done must be dealt with by the Government. Once we have the powers locally, we will implement them to ensure that we do everything we can to stop people getting addicted to these drugs.”

She has sent a copy of a witness statement from a mother, whose child became addicted to legal highs, to the Home Secretary so she can read first-hand the effects these drugs have.

Mrs Baird added: “Reading this mother’s witness statement really brings home the devastating effects of legal highs and I hope officials at the Home Office read it and do everything possible to prevent another family going through the same heartache and pain.”