Justice Minister highlights dangers of New Psychoactive Substances
New Psychoactive Substances have caused significant harm to people across Northern Ireland and it is right that these dangerous drugs will soon be illegal.
That was the message from Justice Minister David Ford as he addressed a seminar arranged by the Organised Crime Task Force Drugs sub group to highlight the risks involved in taking these substances, commonly known as legal highs, and to discuss the forthcoming Psychoactive Substances Act.
The Act which will be implemented from 6 April will prohibit the production, supply and importation of these potentially dangerous drugs and will see offenders face up to seven years in prison.
David Ford, Chair of the Organised Crime Taskforce said: “The Psychoactive Substances Act will fundamentally change the overall approach to dealing with the emergence of these harmful substances and will greatly enhance the powers available to local enforcement agencies in their continued efforts to tackle their supply.
“I welcome today’s event which will provide greater detail and help raise awareness amongst key partners on the content of the forthcoming legislation. I am pleased that the OCTF Drugs Sub-Group has chosen to focus on this important issue.
“The fact that these substances have been commonly and wrongly called ‘legal highs’ has often meant that people have not realised they are extremely dangerous and potentially lethal. The user has no idea of the chemical make-up of the substance, its strength, its effects or how it might react with other substances such as alcohol.
“The new Act, which will outlaw the production and supply of these substances, is an important milestone. My Department will continue to work with both the Home Office and key partners across Northern Ireland to prepare for commencement of the new law on 6 April.”
Detective Superintendent Andrea McMullan from the Reactive and Organised Crime Branch said: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland have been working with a range of partner agencies including Belfast City Council, the Department of Justice and the Public Health Agency to tackle the issue of New Psychoactive Substances.
“We look forward to having additional powers at our disposal to tackle this issue. Previously, we have worked with local councils and other agencies to eliminate the over-the-counter sale of New Psychoactive Substances. This has worked successfully but it was not a comprehensive solution. The new legislation will provide us with powers to tackle NPS production, supply and importation, enabling us to move further up the criminal food chain and prevent such potentially dangerous substances being offered for sale. We will continue to address and confront this threat through a range of tactics and every available legislative opportunity.
“We will continue with proactive investigations and enforcement work but the drugs problem cannot be solved by police alone. We want to ensure that we are doing everything possible to prevent the supply of drugs and arrest those involved while at the same time making people aware of the real dangers they pose to their health and their lives if they take illegal or controlled drugs.
“I would ask anyone who is aware of any individual involved in the supply of drugs to contact their local police on 101. Information can also be passed anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."