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Police to visit every Ashford secondary school after girls hospitalised in legal high scare involving pupil at Towers School

23 January 2014
by Kiran Kaur

Every secondary school pupil in one Kent town is to be warned by police of the potentially fatal dangers of dabbling in so-called legal highs.

It comes after three teenage girls from the town were left needing hospital treatment after taking legal highs. 

The schoolgirls – all believed to be under 16 – are understood to have obtained the substances from a 17-year-old boy in December amid claims he bought them from a new shop in the town centre.

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The Towers School in Faversham Road, Kennington

The Towers School

The boy – a pupil at the Towers School – was excluded from the Faversham Road, Kennington, academy as a result of the incident.

Drugs Liaison Officer, PC Jeff Treadwell, who is based at Ashford police station, will be leading the presentations. 

He said: “The visits were planned well before Christmas to take place in the New Year. Incidents that occurred over Christmas did bring them forward but they were already in place.” 

He added: “The visits involve a short assembly with me speaking to collections of pupils from schools and basically laying out that legal doesn’t necessarily mean safe.”

PC Treadwell believes raising awareness that the substances can lead to severe health risks will help reduce the rising number of deaths and injuries suffered from them.

Police on patrol in Kent

Police on patrol in Kent

He said: “These substances that people think are completely safe have never been tested on animals, they’ve never been tested on humans.

"They’re research chemicals because the persons that are taking them are doing the research.

"If they were to be consumed they would have to be tested. Instead, they say it’s ‘not for human consumption’ therefore they don’t have to be tested so that they can be sold legally.”

The Ashford and Shepway drugs liaison officer believes the police have a responsibility to act – but only when there is legislation in place to do so.

Kent Police are now working on informing teachers about legal highs to help encourage a better understanding of them in the county’s classrooms.

They also work closely with Kent County Council's trading standards officers, to ensure action is taken against any substances covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act. 

Kent Trading Standards staff are frustrated as the drugs - which they claim pose a 'lethal risk' to users - are not controlled by the UK’s  laws.

Over the past few years, they have led to tragic incidents across the country – with 52 deaths in England and Wales in 2012 alone.

Mark Rolfe, Kent County Council’s trading standards manager, said: “We understand that these products which are nicknamed ‘legal highs’ are things that are actually on the outside of the law.

“We really need people to understand that these things are not legal and safe drugs, they are yet-to-be-made-illegal drugs.

Smoking the 'drug' gives a legal high

Smoking the 'drug'

"The government has banned lots of these types of substances.

"The issue is that the chemists keep changing them, which makes it very difficult to ban them. They are dangerous as people don’t know what’s in them.”

He said the most important thing to understand is the substances are an unknown quantity and, as such, are really dangerous.

“These substances that people think are completely safe have never been tested on animals, they’ve never been tested on humans. They’re research chemicals because the persons that are taking them are doing the research" - PC Jeff Treadwell

He added: "We’ve seen some really sad examples of the impact of these drugs. 

"The safety implications of these things really are quite significant and more so than things that we do control. 

"We would be very happy to see them nowhere near our young people.” 

Staff at the department are now calling for drastic changes to ensure they can take action and protect people in Kent from what they regard as ‘lethal highs’.

Mr Rolfe said: “Our hopes for the review are two-fold.

"Firstly, that it will bring out the message to the public that these things are really dangerous and secondly that there will be a means identified of removing them from the market place.”


Video: Mark Rolfe of Trading Standards on the dangers of legal highs

Tomorrow, a drugs charity reveals how education could be the key to tackling legal high taking among youngsters

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