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Legislation exists to address sale of legal highs to under eighteens – Ó Snodaigh

13 April, 2010 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD


Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has said provisions contained in the Childcare Act 1991 can be used by Gardaí and the Courts to address the sale of a number of so-called legal highs to persons under the age of eighteen. And, according to Deputy Ó Snodaigh, this legislation could be easily and quickly amended to prohibit the sale of all of these drugs to persons under eighteen.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said he will be in contact with the Garda Commissioner urging him to issue a directive along with guidance to all members of the force to increase the enforcement of this law and to commence a focused operation targeting head shops.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“In the course of preparing our own comprehensive bill to tackle problems associated with head shops and so-called legal highs I reviewed the existing legislation. In doing so, I have identified an immediate step that can be taken by Gardaí pending the passage of comprehensive legislation.

“It is our belief that existing legislation provides Gardaí and the courts with the power to address the sale of dangerous powders to persons under the age of eighteen. The sale of substances to children where there can be a reasonable belief that these may be inhaled to cause intoxication is an offence under the Childcare Act 1991 punishable by fines and/or imprisonment. That Act also gives Gardaí powers of confiscation in public places.

“I am writing to the Garda Commissioner. I will be urging him to issue a directive along with guidance to all members of the force to increase the enforcement of this law and to commence a focused operation targeting head shops.

“I will also be contacting the Minister for Justice requesting that he introduce a simple amendment to the legislation which would extend this ban to include the sale of non-powder psychoactive substances to persons under the age of eighteen. I am confident that such an amendment would receive all party support and could be made next week on the return of the Dáil if the Government was willing to introduce it.

“In addition on the back of the existing law An Gardaí Síochána should launch an operation targeting those involved in the sale of these inhalable substances via the internet where it is impossible to ascertain the age of the purchaser.

“The government have delayed taking action for too long. Comprehensive legislation such as that which I am currently developing is overdue. At a minimum they should act immediately to protect our children.” ENDS

Note to the editor:
While originally intended to address the sale of glue to children the wording of the Childcare Act 1991 can be interpreted to apply to any substance that may be inhaled for the purpose of causing intoxication.

Childcare Act 1991
Sale etc of solvents. 74.—(1) It shall be an offence for a person to sell, offer or make available a substance to a person under the age of eighteen years or to a person acting on behalf of that person if he knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the substance is, or its fumes are, likely to be inhaled by the person under the age of eighteen years for the purpose of causing intoxication.

(2) In proceedings against any person for an offence under subsection (1), it shall be a defence for him to prove that at the time he sold, offered or made available the substance he was under the age of eighteen years and was acting otherwise than in the course of or furtherance of a business.

(3) In proceedings against any person for an offence under subsection (1) it shall be a defence for him to prove that he took reasonable steps to assure himself that the person to whom the substance was sold, offered or made available, or any person on whose behalf that person was acting, was not under the age of eighteen years.

(4) A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (1) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £1,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.

(5) Subject to subsection (6), a court by which a person is convicted of an offence under this section may order anything shown to the satisfaction of the court to relate to the offence to be forfeited and either destroyed or dealt with in such other manner as the court thinks fit.

(6) A court shall not order anything to be forfeited under this section unless an opportunity is given to any person appearing to the court to be the owner of or otherwise interested in it to show cause why the order should not be made.

(7) A member of the Garda Síochána may seize any substance which is in the possession of a child in any public place and which the member has reasonable cause to believe is being inhaled by that child in a manner likely to cause him to be intoxicated. Any substance so seized may be destroyed or otherwise disposed of in such a manner as a member of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of Superintendent may direct.

(8) This section is without prejudice to the provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Acts, 1977 and 1984.

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