Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, has welcomed Government’s proposals to give additional powers to councils and the police to stop the manufacture, supply or sale of psychoactive substances.
The Psychoactive Substances Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Lords earlier this month.
This Bill emerged from an expert review set up following the Northern Ireland Minister Simon Hamilton raising the issue of legal highs with Home Secretary, Theresa May.
The purpose of the Bill is to control the production, supply, importation and exportation of the generality of new psychoactive substances (other than exempted substances such as nicotine and alcohol). The Bill proposes to give enforcement powers to the PSNI, Border Force, National Crime Agency and local authorities which include district councils in Northern Ireland.
Speaking after a meeting of the Partnership Panel, Mr Durkan said: “I welcome the approach being taken here. We need concise legislation to take action against what is a devastating and debilitating problem for families and communities.
“The proposed powers would enable councils to make a positive contribution towards protecting their local communities by being able to take swift action to tackle the problem.”
Powers will include prohibition notices and applying to the courts for a prohibition order or a premises order.
“Breach of a premises or prohibition order is a criminal offence punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years, an unlimited fine, or both. I encouraged councils to make use of these powers when they are granted.
“The best way of dealing with the scourge of psychoactive substances is for Executive Departments and councils to work together to develop a collective approach and the appropriate forum for taking this forward is at the Partnership Panel.”