Beggs slams ‘lenient’ sentences for Northern Lights trio

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An MLA is hoping for tougher sentences after a trio convicted in relation to Dunluce Street hydroponics store Northern Lights avoided jail.

Jonathan, aka Jonny, McDowell, Jack, aka John McDowell, and Rory McDowell were each given a one-month jail sentence suspended for 18 months.

The trio were sentenced at Ballymena Magistrates’ Court on June 2 in a prosecution brought by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

Jack McDowell pleaded guilty to eight counts of failing to comply with safety regulations regarding the supply of new psychoactive substances at the Dunluce Street store between July 10 2014 and May 6 2015 . He was given a one-month jail sentence suspended for 18 months on each offence, to be served concurrently. He was also ordered to pay £49.

Meanwhile, Jonathan aka Jonny McDowell pleaded guilty to three counts of the same charge between May 15 2014 and December 11 2014 and was given a one-month jail sentence suspended for 18 months on each offence, to be served concurrently. He was also ordered to pay £49.

Rory McDowell pleaded guilty to two counts of the same charge between July 10 2014 and May 6 2015. He was also ordered to pay £49 and received a one month suspended sentence on each charge to be served concurrently and suspended for 18 months.

The three men were charged before the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, which could see those convicted facing a prison sentence of up to seven years.

In contrast, the maximum sentence which the McDowells could be handed under General Product Safety Regulations was imprisonment for a maximum term of three months, or to a fine not exceeding £5000, or to both.

East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs told the Times that he was “disappointed by the leniency of the sentences.”

“I suspect it is down to the case being prosecuted under health and safety legislation rather than the new Psychoactive Substances Act,” he staed.

“These substances cause very significant harm and I would therefore hope that in future should anyone attempt to retail such substances a significant penalty would result. I congratulate council officers for pursuing this conviction.”