Friday 20 February 2015

Trading standards officers from Sheffield City Council teamed up with South Yorkshire Police to seize New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) from shops across the city during a joint operation carried out earlier this week.

The operation on Monday, 16 February, codenamed “Icarus” by the local authority and “Magician” by the police force, was carried out due to safety concerns connected with the use of NPS, also known as legal highs.

Operation Icarus was part of a larger campaign to prevent deaths and injuries to users of NPS in Sheffield.

Although they are usually referred to legal highs, the fact that these products have never been properly tested as safe for human consumption makes them illegal under consumer safety legislation.

Some of the products also contain banned substances, making the sale of them an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Ian Ashmore, head of the council’s environmental regulation team, said: “New Psychoactive Substances are labelled as ‘not for human consumption’ but they are designed to mimic the effects of controlled drugs.

“We have evidence that people are buying these products to get high, and their effect on users can be unpredictable and extremely dangerous.”

So far, there have not been any deaths in Sheffield that are known to be directly related to NPS use, although nationally there has been a large increase in such deaths, from 12 in 2009 to 97 in 2012.

However, there have been large numbers of people becoming ill after using NPS, with an increasing number of people having to go to hospital.

There is also increasing evidence to show that these drugs are having detrimental and unpredictable effects on people’s actions, sometimes causing violent and erratic behaviour.

Councillor Jayne Dunn, Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene at Sheffield City Council, said: “I know that so-called legal highs are a growing problem, both in South Yorkshire and nationally, and I am glad to see officers from organisations across Sheffield working together to crack down on these retailers who are breaking the law.

“These substances can, and do, have a destructive effect on people’s lives. I would urge those who are worried about their own use of NPS, or the use of others, to get help by calling Sheffield’s non-opiates service on 0114 2721481.”

Officers from Trading Standards seized the products using powers under the General Product Regulations 2005. Those regulations make it an offence for a trader to supply a product which he knows or should have presumed, on the basis of the information in his possession and as a professional, is a dangerous product.

All the shops were visited in December 2014 and the traders were served with police and trading standards documents that informed them that the NPS they sell were being ingested and were considered unsafe. At that stage the traders were instructed to remove any unsafe products from sale.

Despite the warnings, it was discovered that several shops were still stocking NPS when revisited. A substantial quantity of the products were then seized and, upon closer inspection, it was found that some of the packets contained substances recently reclassified as illegal Class A drugs.

Detective Inspector Graham Bulmer, who leads for the force on drug prevention, said: “Recent legislative changes have now seen the classification of substances that were previously legal.

“As part of the visits we have advised sellers of the legislative changes and recovered some substances from shops in Barnsley and Sheffield which are now Class A drugs. If further instances are identified then shop owners and users will face prosecution in line with other controlled drugs.

“We continue to work in partnership with other agencies to target the risk posed by these substances.

“The inherent dangers of taking these unknown and untested chemicals are obvious, yet because of the relatively low cost and ease of access people are still tempted to experiment.”

As well as seizing NPS, trading standards officers also confiscated a large quantity of counterfeit and non-duty paid alcohol and non-compliant tobacco products from four of the premises visited.

For advice or help about the use of NPS, either your own or someone you know, contact:
• Non-opiates drug service (adults aged 18 and over), on 0114 2721481
• The Corner – young people aged under 18, on 0114 2752051