Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 – An Explanation

Written 25th May 2016 by Olliers Solicitors

We at Olliers have seen an increase in the number of defendants arrested under the influence of so called ‘legal highs’. Their consumption now is so prevalent in towns across the UK due to how widely available they are. Recent news reports from Rochdale show up to 9 people have recently been hospitalised in the town following their consumption.  Now those that supply those substances are open to prosecution and can face sentences of up to 7 years imprisonment.

Psychoactive Substances Act 2016

The new Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 comes into effect today and here’s what you need to know.

It is now an offence to produce, supply/offer to supply, possess with intent to supply or import a Psychoactive Substance. The sale of the substances will also be dealt with more seriously if that supply takes place in the vicinity of a school or persons under the age of 18 have been used to courier the substance.

Offenders can now face a maximum sentence of up to 7 years imprisonment. 

It is also now becomes an offence to possess a psychoactive substance inside a prison and those caught and prosecuted can face a maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment.

But what is a Psychoactive Substance?

The Act describes it as:

“A substance that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect in a person who consumes it… by stimulating or depressing the person’s central nervous system or it affects the person’s mental functioning or emotional state”.

There are exempted substances such as those already controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, medicinal products, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and food.

This definition has attracted criticism for being too broad and will make it difficult for prosecutors to prove a substance produces a “psychoactive effect” .

The definition could include anything from solvent based glues, anti freeze, even nail varnish!

Supply of Pyschoactive Substances

Retailers now will be committing an offence if they “(a) intentionally supply a substance to another, b) the substance is a psychoactive substance, (c) the person knows or suspects, or ought to know or suspect, that the substance is a psychoactive substance, and (d) the person knows, or is reckless as to whether, the psychoactive substance is likely to be consumed by the person to whom it is supplied, or by some other person, for its psychoactive effects.”

Therefore to be guilty of an offence a shop keeper will need to have either known or ought to have known that the substance was psychoactive and that the person he sold it to was going to use it for that purpose. The difficulties with proving this are so apparent and have attracted much criticism.

It will be interesting to see over the coming months how this new law is going to be implemented and how many prosecutions are brought as a result of it.

Olliers Solicitors – Specialist Criminal Defence

Written by Stacey Mabrouk. Stacey heads up our general Crown Court department. Her case load involves allegations of violent assaults, serious sexual offences and drug offences involving possession, production and supply.

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