Mum of victim welcomes ‘legal high’ ruling

By Gemma Burns

The mother of a young West Belfast man who took his own life under the influence of a legal high has welcomed a court injunction on their sale in a city centre shop.
Tracy Carnahan’s son Sean Paul died in March 2013 five months after he was admitted with a brain injury, having trying to take his own life after taking a shop-bought substance.
The local mum was speaking after a court ruling placed an injunction on a city centre trader banning the sale of legal highs. The case was taken by Belfast City Council and the Attorney General.
“I want to say well done to those who brought the case,” said Tracy. “I don’t want any other family to suffer like we have suffered. This could stop someone else’s child from dying. Selling these legal highs was just another death waiting to happen.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Ciaran Beattie welcomed the court ruling.
“I very much welcome this landmark court ruling,” he said. “The use of so-called legal highs has caused much devastation in the lives of a lot of families in local communities. The fact they were being sold despite repeated health warnings displayed a complete disregard for the effect these substances have had, on young people in particular.”
The West Belfast councillor earlier this year hosted a meeting between city centre traders and Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson, who has been working on this issue in Strasbourg. It was recently reported Ireland has the highest use of so-called legal highs in Europe.
“A few weeks ago along with Councillor Deirdre Hargey and Martina Anderson MEP I met with the Attorney General John Larkin to explore the legal options for bringing the north in line with legislation in the 26 counties,” said Cllr Beattie.
“This puts the onus on the trader to prove that these substances are safe. Sinn Féin will continue to pursue that avenue. Before meeting with traders, we also met with the Attorney General, John Larkin, to explore all the legal options available to deal with legal highs. There is a particular problem around the North Street area where, despite pressure from local traders, Belfast City Council and the PSNI, one outlet refused to stop selling these lethal substances to young people. A lot of parents had approached Sinn Féin to raise their concerns about this particular outlet.
“Traders in the area, who I have also met with, had also raised repeated concerns.
The Sinn Féin councillor said it is clear that the issue requires legislation, similar to that introduced in the 26 counties, which would put the onus on the trader to prove that a product is safe. The introduction of this legislation resulted in the closure of a number of so-called ‘head shops’ in Dublin.
“As chairperson of the South Belfast PCSP and of the Council’s Development Committee I had put a focus on this problem and intend to carry it forward. Sinn Féin are determined to address this issue. So this injunction albeit temporary, is very much welcome as a further step in curtailing the sale and use of these dangerous substances.”

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