Councils are to be given the necessary powers to combat the sale of so-called ‘legal highs’.
Already this year, we have seen two young girls taken to hospital in Newry requiring treatment.
And just the following month, two young girls were taken to Craigavon Area Hospital after similarly suffering the ill effects of these products.
It has previously been stated that new legal highs are appearing at a rate of one a week.
But the loopholes which have allowed them to be sold are about to be blocked.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan today welcomed the Westminster Government’s proposals to give additional powers to councils and the police to stop their manufacture, supply or sale.
The Psychoactive Substances Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Lords earlier this month. This Bill emerged from an expert review set up following the Northern Ireland Minister Simon Hamilton raising the issue of legal highs with Home Secretary, Theresa May.
The purpose of the Bill is to control the production, supply, importation and exportation of the generality of new psychoactive substances (other than exempted substances such as nicotine and alcohol). The Bill proposes to give enforcement powers to the PSNI, Border Force, National Crime Agency and local authorities which include district councils in Northern Ireland.
Speaking after a meeting of the Partnership Panel, comprising Executive Ministers, councillors from the 11 councils and the Northern Ireland Local Government Association, Minister Durkan said: “I welcome the approach being taken here.
“We need concise legislation to take action against what is a devastating and debilitating problem for families and communities. The proposed powers would enable councils to make a positive contribution towards protecting their local communities by being able to take swift action to tackle the problem.
“For example, they could issue a prohibition notice which requires the person to stop carrying out the prohibited activity.
“Councils will also be able to issue a premises notice which would require a person, such as the landlord of a ‘head shop’, to take all reasonable steps to prevent prohibited activity taking place on the premises.
“Councils may also apply to the courts for a prohibition order or a premises order. Breach of a premises or prohibition order is a criminal offence punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years, an unlimited fine, or both. I encouraged councils to make use of these powers when they are granted.
“The best way of dealing with the scourge of psychoactive substances is for Executive Departments and councils to work together to develop a collective approach and the appropriate forum for taking this forward is at the Partnership Panel.”
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