FIFTEEN thousand pounds worth of ‘legal highs’ seized by the PSNI in Londonderry in May were just that - perfectly legal - and have now been returned to the owner, the Sentinel can reveal.
Police in Londonderry announced in June 2012 that they had seized ‘a large quantity of a suspected harmful substances’ that they believed to be ‘legal highs’ following a search of premises on Thursday, May 31. They said the goods were estimated to be worth around £15,000.
But the Sentinel has now learned that after forensic testing that took months to complete - the PSNI told the Sentinel in September that the normal waiting time for forensic tests was four months - police realised there was nothing illegal about the goods.
The Sentinel asked the PSNI last Thursday if forensic testing had concluded yet and if the suspected ‘legal highs’ had been illegal at all. They weren’t.
A spokesperson for the PSNI confirmed: “Forensic results concluded no illegal substances found. All items were returned to proprietor.”
It’s a major volte-face for the PSNI following the seizure in June said “it is suspected that substances touted as ‘legal highs’ do contain dangerous substances which are harmful to human health and potentially have dangerous psychological side effects.”
But the PSNI fully stands over its operation, which was carried out as a result of information received from the public.
A spokesperson said: “The community have told us they are worried about the use of ‘legal highs’, particularly among young people.
“It is suspected that substances touted as ‘legal highs’ do contain dangerous substances which are harmful to human health. Local officers work very hard to ensure anything which could pose a risk to the health of our young people is taken off the streets and we will continue to work with residents, local council and health authorities to this end.”
The PSNI surprisingly went on to warn people of the risks and health effects of taking mind altering substances, even if these substances were legal.
The spokesperson said: “There is always a risk in taking a mind altering substance - legal or illegal - you can never be sure of exactly what it is, what is in it or what possible side effects it could have or what long term damage it could cause.
“The possible consequences will always outweigh any benefit you might think you will get.”
The PSNI wants anyone with information on the sale or supply of controlled drugs or the misuse of drugs to contact their local police.
After the seizure of the perfectly legal highs, back in May Neighbourhood Sergeant Ray Wilson said the community had told the PSNI they were worried about ‘legal highs’ being available to young people.
He said: “The issue of legal highs is very concerning and indeed the term ‘legal high’ makes people think taking them is safe when the reality is, they can be extremely dangerous.
“People just don’t know what is in these substances or the effects it will have. Some of the items we seized contain the warning, ‘not for human consumption’. I would urge anyone who uses these substances to really think about the harm they are causing to themselves.”