WORKING towards banning lethal substances that have caused untold hurt among the community has been a big part of The News’ agenda.
Campaigns such as our Legal Highs: Only Lows, which calls for a change in law and raises awareness of the drugs’ devastating consequences, are part of the way newspapers make a difference – something being highlighted for Local Newspaper Week.
The News joined forces with local authorities, police, MPs and grieving families to campaign for new laws to be brought in to deal with legal highs.
Many stories have been reported, including the tragic deaths of people who have used the substances.
Senior coroner David Horsley, who covers Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport and Havant, said he had seen a rise over the past four years.
Mr Horsley wrote to the government asking for Gocaine to be banned after the cardiac arrest death of Gosport man Matthew Flatman, 35.
He said: ‘They buy them in head shops and the proprietors of the shops are not under any obligation to find out what’s in the product they’re selling. They just sell the stuff because it’s legal.
‘They’re made in such twilight circumstances that there’s no guarantee that it’s going to contain what it says on the box. It’s a very dangerous thing to do.’
The New Psychoactive Substances Act was given Royal Assent in April – making it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, possess on custodial premises, import or export psychoactive substances.
The maximum sentence is seven years in jail, although critics of the law say it is too wide. It is yet to be introduced and will come into force on May 26.
The News helped put pressure on the authorities to crack down on shops selling the substances and Gypsy Kings in Portsmouth was closed down for three months last year.
But families who have seen lives ruined say head shops where they’re sold continue to flourish – and the problem isn’t going to go away on its own.
Heartbroken father Raymond Fox spoke out after reading about the campaign when his son Joel died.
He called for tougher action to be taken as his son was found dead with seven empty packets of legal highs in front of him.
Another Portsmouth father whose son’s life was destroyed after he became hooked on legal highs and synthetic forms of cannabis and cocaine warned of an ‘epidemic’.
Ex-criminal Daniel Brown from Portchester also warned a legal high called ‘Spice’ at Winchester Prison had turned some inmates ‘psychotic’.