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Call for police to halt legal high sales in shops

LEGISLATION regulating the sale of late-night food should be used by the police in tackling 24-hour stores selling so-called legal highs, licensed trade leaders have warned.

Concerns have been raised with the authorities in Scotland's largest city over the growth in round-the-clock shops selling "new psychoactive substances" (NPSs) and the danger of them being mixed with alcohol.

One issue raised by nightclub operators is revellers buying an NPS from 24-hour newsagents in Glasgow city centre and later collapsing in other venues, as happened in one club last month.

The Herald has also learned that leading promoter Geoff Ellis, the man behind the T In The Park festival, has been lobbying the Scottish Government for tighter control around legal highs.

An NPS called Rolex was ­implicated in the deaths of two young people earlier this year and seven others being taken to hospital.

In England and Wales last year 52 people died as a result of taking legal highs.

At a recent meeting of the city's influential licensing forum, which includes trade representatives, health professionals, politicians and the police, it was stated Police Scotland could give consideration to raising the matter as a complaint for consideration by the council, as such premises now required a late-hours catering licence under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.

If an incident involving an NPS was located back to the shop, the premises could lose its licence to sell any kind of food after 11pm.

The forum also claimed that if it was established that an off-sales was selling such substances, the police could at first request they stop and if they did not the matter could be brought to the attention of the Board, where they could face any number of sanctions.

One leading lawyer in the field drew comparisons with the successful prosecution of shopkeepers in the 1980s for selling glue-sniffing paraphernalia. Although the kit items could lawfully be sold, the circumstances of their sale meant the shopkeeper was indicted on "culpable and reckless conduct".

It comes as three Scottish ­charities pilot a drop-in service in Glasgow in an attempt to cut the harm caused by legal-high drugs, offering advice and information to young people and party-goers about the risks associated with NPSs and operating over the Hogmanay period.

Donald MacLeod is chairman of the Glasgow Licensing Forum, as well as the owner of a successful stable of city venues.

He said: "The fact that these shops are allowed to sell these products alongside KitKats and newspapers any hour of the day makes a mockery of the system the licensed trade must abide by.

"If you can't buy alcohol past 10pm why on earth can you buy potentially lethal substances? The authorities frequently talk of making an example of those selling alcohol who step out of line.

"We'd like to see the same applied with shops selling legal highs, and there is enough in the licensing legislation to try to do something now."

Leading licensing lawyer Jack Cummins said: "The city's late-night industry works hard to ensure that clubbers and pub-goers are welcomed into a safe environment.

"Those shopkeepers who put customers and others at risk ought to be more than ashamed. I'd like to think that Scots Law might just be flexible enough to expose them to a charge of 'culpable and reckless conduct'."

Glasgow's new licensing board chairman Bill Butler also said the late-hours catering legislation could be used in dealing with legal highs, but a spokesman said this could only happen in the event of specific complaints being made and as yet none had been lodged. The spokesman added: "We are working to develop appropriate responses for the different groups who we understand engage in the use of these drugs."

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