PORTSMOUTH is in line to become only the second city in the country to ban the use of legal highs in public, The News can reveal.
An order giving the council powers to seize such substances from people found to be taking them on the streets could be imposed.
People experimenting with life are also experimenting with death. We need to stop this deadly trade killing young people.Tory councillor Alistair Thompson
And it is hoped the legislation – a public space protection order – could be extended, giving the authority the ability to hand out fines of up to £100.
The move, approved unanimously by the council last night, could be extended to neighbouring boroughs after local leaders gave their backing to the idea.
In practice, it would work like alcohol banning orders for certain places. While the substance is legal, it can be outlawed in a given area, in this case the city.
Tory councillor Alistair Thompson, who brought the proposal forward with Cllr Steve Weymss, said: ‘We have got to get tough on legal highs because they are killing people.
‘People experimenting with life are also experimenting with death.
‘We need to stop this deadly trade killing young people.’
It comes as figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show the number of incidents involving legal highs recorded by Hampshire police has shot up from none to 403 since 2010 – the third highest in the country. Police say legal highs have been linked to a number of anti-social behaviour incidents.
Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes backed action being taken.
‘This should go some way to towards helping authorities to tackle this growing menace within our communities,’ he said.
‘Legal highs can ruin lives and relationships and limit people’s ability to reach their full potential.
‘We must therefore use every available power to prevent the sale and use of these psychoactive substances, which are having a growing and detrimental effect across our communities, especially among young people.’
Cllr Mark Hook, leader of Gosport Borough Council, said: ‘We will watch with interest what happens in Portsmouth and if it is successful, there is no reason why we shouldn’t replicate it over here.’
And Cllr Mike Cheshire, leader of Havant Borough Council, and Fareham leader Sean Woodward said they would consider getting on board.
A city council report will now be drawn up to work out how the order can be best enforced and the costs involved.
Portsmouth Lib Dem councillor Darren Sanders said the city owes it ‘to the lives of 16 and 17-year-olds’ to address the issue and protect them from danger.
Ukip also hopes work can be done to enforce a city-wide ban on the sale of legal highs. Lincoln will become the first city to introduce the order on April 1 after evidence was collected they were having a ‘detrimental’ impact.
A public space protection order can be created if it is found an activity creates harm and contributes to crime.
Portsmouth Police Commander Supt Will Schofield said: ‘Over time we have had a number of reports of anti-social behaviour associated with the use of legal highs in the city.
‘Our first step is always to try to engage with the businesses that sell these products to try and resolve the issue.
‘We will though always work closely with our partner agencies and explore all avenues to tackle this problem.’