OLICE have welcomed the news that thet Torfaen AM Lynne Neagle has persuaded the Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee to undertake a full-scale inquiry into legal highs.
Ms Neagle has previously raised her concerns over the growing prevalence of these substances, also known as new psychoactive substances, and has been working with Gwent Police, DrugAid, the Aneurin Bevan Health Board, Public Health Wales, and the Torfaen Pupil Referral Unit, through a series of joint meetings.
The aim is to share knowledge, identify emerging trends, and help co-ordinate messaging between the various agencies whose work has been impacted by the increasingly widespread popularity of the substances.
Gwent Police Inspector Cath Hawke said: “Following on from the positive action taken concerning a head shop in the Cwmbran area, Sgt Jennie Tinsley, Sgt Cath Davey and myself have been working with the local AM and MP, along with partner agencies, to raise awareness across Torfaen of the dangers of taking legal highs.
“This work has also involved mental health,staff within a local Accident and Emergency Department, youth services and community projects such as Communities First.
“We very much welcome the news that the Assembly will be taking this work forward “We are also working with community groups and the Force Schools Co-ordinator to gain funding for and then produced a DVD which will become part of a bespoke lesson for schools reflecting the dangers associated with legal highs.”
Prior to the formal start of the inquiry in October, the Assembly’s Health Committee will embark on an extensive consultation and evidence gathering exercise.
A public survey is also planned, and committee members are expected to use a series of visits and focus groups to help inform their findings.
Welcoming the committee’s decision, Mrs Neagle said previously: “We know that legal highs are having a major impact on the people and communities we represent and it’s very clear from the work I’ve done locally on this issue that part of the problem lies in the fact there’s so little knowledge or research to fall back on. For me that just makes this inquiry all the more important.”
In March, Torfaen MP Paul Murphy called on the UK Government and Welsh Assembly to work together to tackle legal highs.
In the House of Commons, Mr Murphy called for more powers for local communities to close shops selling the substances in their area.
This followed a police raid on two Gwent shops in October last year, where 58 substances were sent away for testing.
Months later another shop was opened in Pontypool, despite over 170 people signing a petition in objection.
Speaking during the debate, Mr Murphy said: “It simply cannot be right that these dangerous products are still being sold to people and that local authorities are powerless to stop the damage they are doing.”