Suspended sentence for Ipswich shopkeeper who sold untested ‘legal highs’

Stop press, Upper Brook Street, Ipswich

Stop press, Upper Brook Street, Ipswich

An Ipswich shopkeeper has been given a suspended prison sentence and a £3,000 bill after pleading guilty to selling a range of new and untested psychoactive ‘legal highs’.

Ali Reza Zarei, owner of the Stop Press shop in Upper Brook Street, pleaded guilty to selling a range of new untested psychoactive substances at Ipswich Magistrates Court.

Ali Reza Zarei, of Cromarty Road, Ipswich, pleaded guilty to all seven charges brought against him by Suffolk Trading Standards, which included placing an unsafe product on the market, supplying an unsafe product and failing to correctly test and label products sold in the shop.

He was given a 12 week prison sentence per charge, suspended for 12 months, as well as a £1,000 fine. He was also ordered to pay £2,100 in costs and a £20 victim surcharge.

The Trading Standards investigation began when the shop was visited and advice was given jointly by Trading Standards and Suffolk police with regard to New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), so-called ‘legal highs’.

Police advised Mr Zarei that some of the items could contain substances under the Misuse Of Drugs Act, and could be unsafe for various reasons, including a lack of testing and insufficient information on the labelling.

Mr Zarei initially waived over his stock of NPS but was later found to be selling again when Suffolk Police led a raid on the premises in November 2014.

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All the NPS and associated paraphernalia were seized but found to not contravene the Misuse of Drugs Act. The case was referred to Trading Standards to investigate potential breaches of safety legislation.

Robin Pivett, drug and chemical liaison officer for Suffolk police, said: “These substances mimic the effects of controlled drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis and can take the form of powders, pills and herbal.

“They are not all covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act as their chemical structure has been slightly altered, which makes them very dangerous as it is impossible to predict the side effects or long-term health risks that they may cause.

“The dangers of ingesting or smoking many of the substances that are being openly sold as safe are really unknown.

“Suppliers are trying to hide by giving messages such as not to be sold to those under 18, not for human consumption or used for chemical research only, but what they are really doing is circumnavigating the law in order to make a financial gain for themselves, giving little or no thought of the health implications to the user.

“Risks of legal highs include reduced inhibitions, drowsiness, excited or paranoid states, psychosis, hallucinations, coma and seizures.

“Many have been directly linked to emergency hospital admissions and, in some cases, deaths.

“One type of substance can also be much stronger than another, in some cases ten times stronger, and this can lead to accidental overdosing.”

Suffolk Police are working with Suffolk Trading Standards to try and continue raising awareness of chemical highs and their dangers.

Anyone with concerns about the supply of psychoactive substances can report these anonymously to Trading Standards by calling 03454 04 05 06 or emailing tradingstandards@suffolk.gov.uk

For more information about legal highs, visit www.suffolk.police.uk/safetyadvice/personalsafety/drugs/legalhighs.aspx.