Larne’s ‘legal highs’ store may be prosecuted

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Larne Borough Council is seeking to initiate criminal proceedings against Northern Lights hydroponics shop in the town, the Times can reveal.

In recent months, the local authority – supported by the PSNI – has seized hundreds of sachets of suspected legal highs from the business, located on Dunluce Street.

The council believes these products, which it refers to as new psychoactive substances, pose serious health and safety risks to the public.

And this could make them illegal under consumer safety regulations.

Director of Environmental Services, Philip Thompson told the Times that the local authority had reasonable grounds to believe the products did not comply with consumer proection legislation, as they were “insufficiently labelled and had no traceability”.

He added: “Larne Council will be seeking to pursue a criminal prosecution under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005. The business must be able to demonstrate that these substances are safe.

“The products will undergo testing to see if they contain banned substances, which would make them highly illegal under drug control legislation.”

The council is hoping that if there is a successful prosecution against the business, it will send out a strong message to other people selling these products, as well as raise awareness of the dangers associated with consuming legal highs.

Mr Thompson said the council has been following a similar approach taken by Belfast City Council regarding the sale of legal highs in the borough.

He added: “Larne Council has also written to the NI Executive calling for a tightening of the legislative controls on new psychoactive substances.

“The Republic of Ireland has introduced a law banning the sale of these substances, and we would like to see similar legislation implemented in the UK.”

Chief executive of Larne Council, Geraldine McGahey said: “We do not have the power to stop this shop from trading, but our Environmental Health department has been very proactive in pursuing the sale of these substances, and has seized products from the business on a number of occasions.”

During a council inspection of the shop in May, over 300 sachets of legal highs were surrendered by the Northern Lights and removed from sale.

A further 550 sachets of product retailing under the brand name of ‘Magic Dragon’, ‘Pink Panther’ and ‘Bullets’ were seized from the premises in July, and the council is now preparing for a forfeiture hearing at the magistrates court.

The Larne Times attempted to reach the owner of the shop for comment, but he was unavailable at the time of going to Press.