Plymouth magistrates have granted a three month closure order on a shop selling ‘legal highs’, following a series of complaints about anti-social behaviour.
The closure order – for the High Life Shop in Cornwall Street – was applied for by Plymouth City Council under Section 86 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, new legislation that came into effect in October 2014. It is the maximum length of time that can be granted under the new legislation.
The order followed an investigation by Devon and Cornwall Police into complaints over a sustained period regarding antisocial behaviour, nuisance and disorder linked to the sale of ‘legal highs’ in the city. Shops that sell ‘legal highs’ are also sometimes referred to as ‘Headshops’.
Councillor Philippa Davey, Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Communities for Plymouth City Council, said: “We welcome the court’s decision to grant the temporary closure of this shop because it sends a clear message that we will not tolerate antisocial behaviour associated with the sale of legal highs in Plymouth.
“This decision sets an important precedent but there is of course still more work to do to protect people from the dangers of legal highs – both in terms of anti-social behaviour and because of the associated health risks. We will continue to listen to local resident’s concerns and act on them, and work very closely with our partners in Devon and Cornwall Police to tackle this issue.
Following the hearing, Chief Superintendent Andy Boulting, commander of Plymouth police, said: “The closure highlights the determination of Plymouth police to take positive action to use new legislation to good effect to drive down anti-social behaviour related to legal highs.
“The closure is the result of hard work from Plymouth City Council and the neighbourhood policing team based at Charles Cross. This shop has had a detrimental effect on the local residents and businesses in the city centre, plus the wider Plymouth community, for some time.
“The harmful effect on clients using the shop should not be underestimated and we have seen an increasing impact on young people, vulnerable groups and families across the city.
“Because they are sold on the high street people wrongly believe ‘legal highs’ are safe – but they are not. Fortunately, with the closure of this shop these harmful substances will no longer be so readily accessible in the city.
“Officers and PSCOs have made reassurance visits to traders and members of the public since the temporary closure notice was served and the overwhelming reaction is one of relief that this shop is no longer trading. We will continue to take proactive approach with partner agencies to keep ‘legal highs’ out of our city.”
Councillor Sue McDonald, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Public Health for Plymouth City Council said: “It is an open secret that Headshops exploit legal loopholes to sell untested drugs for human consumption. Those drugs often find their way to young people and other vulnerable groups, sometimes through direct sales and sometimes as a result of adults buying drugs to pass on to minors.
“Whilst all drugs have risks and those risks associated with ‘traditional’ drugs of consumption are well known, that is not the case with Novel Psychoactive substances and all over the country there are reports of serious problems linked to their use.
“Locally we are seeing a disproportionate impact on the health of vulnerable groups. We are seeing reports of increased anti-social and risk taking behaviour, family breakdown and relationship problems and physical and mental health issues associated with some of these drugs.
“Closing Headshops won’t solve all of these problems but it will make it harder for people to obtain the drugs and it also sends a clear message that Plymouth City Council will take action to protect its citizens from avoidable harms and that it will not tolerate an industry that exploits our most vulnerable residents.”
- A second closure order – for the Damn Good Head Shop in Ebrington Street – has been contested by the shop’s owners and the case has been adjourned until Thursday 9 July 2015. The shop will remain closed until the next hearing.