Call to get tough as legal highs claim life of father from Havant

IT'S NOT enough to stop more people dying.

Monday, 18th July 2016, 6:00 am
Joel Fox died after taking a 'lethal cocktail' of legal highs

That’s the view on the new law against ‘legal highs’ from a grieving father whose son Joel Fox died from a ‘lethal cocktail’ of the drugs.

An inquest in Portsmouth into father-of-two Mr Fox’s death was told that ‘a nightmare situation’ had been created where the authorities and experts could not keep track on new legal highs and the chemicals they contain.

The Psychoactive Substances Act came into force in May to put a blanket ban on the production, distribution, sale and supply of legal highs – but not usage.

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Joel’s father Raymond Fox, from Denmead, does not believe that is enough to save other people from suffering the same fate as his son.

And he has called for the possession of ‘legal highs’ to be made illegal to give police more powers to clamp down on their usage.

Mr Fox said: ‘They have closed down the shops, but there has got to be tougher legislation against it.

‘People can still get hold of them.

‘What we would like to see is possession of legal highs to be against the law so at least police can stamp down and control it.

‘How can they control it if it’s okay to possess legal highs?’

The inquest was told Joel’s body was discovered at his flat at Victory House, in Soberton Road, Leigh Park, on October 16 last year.

He had suffered mental illness, including psychosis, for 20 years.

The hearing was told Joel had taken four packets of an unknown substance.

Some time before this, Raymond Fox said he had warned his son of the dangers of legal highs, showing him the front page of The News which was warning people of the dangers as part of our Legal Highs: Only Lows campaign.

But the inquest was told Joel thought he was in control of the situation.

Michael Street, a neighbour and friend of Joel, said: ‘He thought because it was legal highs, it was legal.

‘He thought it was alright.

‘He thought he was as strong as an ox. He thought he was superman.’

Mr Street said he saw Joel two days before he was found dead.

The evening before Joel had packets of legal highs, the inquest heard.

Mr Street said: ‘He had four packets with him.

‘He took two and gave me two. He said “put them in a hiding place”.

‘He was worried the “demons” would take the legal highs.’

Joel would later come back to get the remaining packets, the inquest heard.

The alarm was raised after mental health workers could not get into his flat during routine visits.

Mr Street described Joel as a ‘likeable character’, adding: ‘Something needs to be done to prevent future unnecessary deaths.’

Mr Street said he blamed the ‘system’ for Joel’s death, but Mr Fox praised the work of mental health workers in trying to help his son.

A pathologist examining Joel found no alcohol in his body, but a quantity of prescription drugs and three unknown legal high chemicals.

Fentanyl patches, used to treat pain, had also been abused by Joel.

The mix of this with the legal high drugs was potentially lethal, said the pathology report.

The coroner was told that it would have shut down Joel’s central nervous system.

‘He would have felt drowsy and fallen asleep,’ said coroner David Horsley.

Raymond Fox said he knew his son had been using legal highs for around 18 months and had warned him off them. Mr Fox said: ‘He got angry with me.

‘He said “I know everything there is to know about legal highs”.

‘He said “Don’t you think I know what I am doing?”

‘I guess he just enjoyed what he was doing.’

Mr Fox said if had known the full extent of his son’s drug habits he would have taken more action.

‘If I had known what was happening I would have flipped the table and stopped it happening,’ he said.

The coroner spoke out strongly against legal highs at the hearing.

Mr Horsley said: ‘The problem with legal highs is every time the law bans one, they come up with something else.

‘It’s hard for the forensic chemists to keep on top of it all.

‘These legal highs really are exploiting vulnerable people. Joel was quite clearly a vulnerable person with his own mental health problems.

‘Quite clearly he has taken a lethal cocktail of things.

‘I wish they could all be banned.’

And he added: ‘There are evil people working with them all over the world.

‘It’s almost like a game to them. They are taking advantage of vulnerable people like Joel.’

Recording accidental death, he said: ‘I don’t think he intended to harm himself.

‘I don’t think he had sufficient wherewithal to realise he was putting himself in danger.’

Mr Horsley added: ‘People buy them over the internet.

‘It’s a nightmare situation.’

Mr Fox said his son, a former pupil at Warblington School was diagnosed with psychosis in 1994 at St James’ Hospital in Portsmouth following a breakdown.

He spent time at Elmleigh, a mental health facility in Havant, but he was living in the community with carer supervision when he died.

Mr Fox said Joel had turned to legal highs to cope with his illness.