A ground-breaking court case has resulted in an order for more than 600 so-called “legal highs” seized at four shops in Kent to be permanently forfeited.
The shops – Headz and Phone Doctor in Folkestone, Third Eye in Canterbury and the Bong Shop in Margate – have been prevented from selling the products since enforcement action by KCC Trading Standards in July.
In a co-ordinated series of raids, officers from Kent and Medway Trading Standards, with the support of police, seized samples of New Psychoactive Substances from shops across the county and suspended the sale of many more.
Canterbury magistrates today confirmed that they were satisfied that the products were unsafe and that there were deficiencies in their labelling.
KCC Trading Standards Manager Mark Rolfe said: “We believe that this is the first case of its kind in England and are delighted that the court has agreed with our view that these products are not safe.”
The products fall under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 which prohibit any unsafe product from being supplied.
Trading Standards contested that, irrespective of disclaimers such as “not fit for human consumption”, the stores were aware that once sold, they would be consumed.
To comply with consumer law, traders must know precisely what is in each of the products they sell and what risks are associated with the ingredients.
The substances in question produce similar effects to illegal drugs, such as cocaine and ecstasy, but that are not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
They cannot be sold for human consumption, but are often sold as bath salts or plant food to get round the law.
Mr Rolfe said: “We have been concerned for some time about the dangers posed by these products.
Three people have died in Kent as a result of taking them, and across the nation they were linked to the deaths of 68 people in 2012.
“Trading Standards and the police have been working together to find an appropriate course of action that will get them off the streets.”
Police Sgt Garry Brimson said: “It is clear that New Psychoactive Substances are being ingested by children and adults in Kent and Medway.
“These substances are clearly unsafe as police and other professionals have to deal with the aftermath of collapses and violence linked to their consumption.
“Today the court has agreed that they are unsafe and has ordered the forfeiture of more than 600 items. We will continue to work with Trading Standards and other partners to protect the people of Kent from these dangerous substances.”
Mr Rolfe added: “These proceedings have established that the term ‘legal highs’ is inappropriate for these products as they are not legal. We would reiterate our advice to members of the public to avoid these products completely.”