Police in Portsmouth ‘cautiously optimistic’ over legal highs ban

Legal highs can no longer be sold in shops in the UK
Legal highs can no longer be sold in shops in the UK
Hampshire Constabulary

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POLICE have said they are ‘cautiously optimistic’ about a new law banning legal highs after shops stopped selling the items.

It comes as Portsmouth police visited head shops asking owners to surrender any leftover stock.

A banning law – the Psychoactive Substances Act – came into force on Thursday.

The law bans the production, supply, possession with intent, and import or export of psychoactive substances sold for their effects.

It comes after The News’ campaign Legal Highs: Only Lows called for a ban of legal highs.

Sgt Richard Holland, from Charles Dickens neighbourhood policing team, said he was ‘cautiously optimistic’ after the law came in.

If they hadn’t surrendered it, it’s conceivable they would have committed an offence

Sgt Richard Holland

He said: ‘This was what’s leftover because of the offences of production, supply and possession with intent coming in. If they hadn’t surrendered it, it’s conceivable they would have committed an offence.

‘We’ve got a lot of stock that could have gone somewhere else.

‘Simple possession of legal, now illegal, highs is not an offence – it’s possession with intent to supply, import, supply and production.

‘We will start to look at intelligence as any other controlled drug we’ll be acting on intelligence from members of the public.’

He added police will respond to intelligence shops are selling the drugs just as if they had a report about a cannabis factory. ‘Hopefully starting from a positive footing we won’t get that,’ Sgt Holland added.

The shops where the items were surrendered were not revealed.

Multiple deaths in the area have been linked to legal highs in recent years.

As reported, Gypsy Kings in Portsmouth, run by Peter Stanley, slashed prices on Wednesday and opened until midnight to sell the items.

It comes as Caroline Dinenage, Gosport MP, welcomed the New Psychoactive Substances Act.

Ms Dinenage said: ‘Legal highs are lethal and across both Gosport and the United Kingdom, too many lives have been ruined or lost.

‘I am pleased that the government have taken steps to make psychoactive substances illegal and make our country a safer place.’

The maximum penalty for supplying is seven years’ jail.

Police have powers to shut down head shops and online UK-based retailers selling the substances.

Breaching those orders would be a criminal offence.

Anyone buying legal highs from websites based abroad could be guilty of an offence on importation, Hampshire police said on Thursday.

Minister for preventing abuse, exploitation and crime Karen Bradley said: ‘Too many lives have been lost or ruined by the dangerous drugs formerly referred to as “legal highs”.’