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Tens of thousands of ‘laughing gas’ cartridges seized at Suffolk port

Nitrous oxide cannisters  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Nitrous oxide cannisters Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

Authorities have confiscated a large shipment of nitrous oxide, also known as ‘laughing gas’ or ‘hippy crack’, after thousands of boxes of cartridges were seized in Suffolk.

A court granted officials permission to impound the items – found inside seven containers at the Port of Felixstowe – on Monday morning.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) applied to Suffolk Magistrates’ Court for the condemnation of 81 pallets and 2,988 boxes of Taiwan-produced Mosa brand nitrous oxide cartridges.

Each small metal capsule contained either 7.8 or 8 grammes of the gas – administered as pain relief during medical procedures but also misused as a recreational drug.

One of the seven containers alone held 1,008 boxes of cartridges – weighing a total of 4,717 kilogrammes.

The shipment had been bound for a wholesale company based in Rutland, in the East Midlands, which was given notice of the hearing and chose not to contest the application.

Nitrous oxide cartridges are commonly sold as a propellant for whipped cream dispensers but can also be discharged into a balloon and inhaled as a recreational drug.

Until four years ago, nitrous oxide could be marketed as a ‘legal high’ – used to produce similar effects to banned substances

The Psychoactive Substance Act 2016 made it illegal to import or supply nitrous oxide cartridges – unless proof can be provided of their intended use as cream chargers in the catering industry.

The colourless gas inside the cartridges is also used as a recreational drug, known as hippy crack, capable of producing a euphoric high.

HMRC made an application for the condemnation of items liable to forfeiture in accordance with paragraph six of schedule three to the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

Condemnation proceedings establish whether or not legal ownership should pass to HMRC or back to the company.

Magistrates granted the condemnation order, which was applied for without contest from an appellant.


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