A parliamentary meeting has been held for organisations across the country to talk about how they are dealing with antisocial behaviour created by the use of so-called ‘legal highs’.
A group of councils, police forces, and other organisations attended the meeting on Novel Psychoactive Substances / New Psychoactive Substances – formerly known as legal highs officially but are not actually legal anymore – which was held in Westminster earlier this month.
Among those who attended were Wrexham’s MP Ian Lucas, who also invited council officers from Wrexham Council who have been working on the issue locally.
Over the past 18 months Wrexham has faced issues with the effects of NPS – specifically in the town centre. As readers of Wrexham.com will be aware, the town made front page news across the country back in March 2017.
The town grabbed national headlines later on in the year when a group of homeless people set up a make-shift campsite on the grounds of the former Groves school.
In 2016 new legislation was introduced specifically aimed at tackling the sale, production and misuse of then ‘legal highs’ such as ‘spice’ and ‘mamba’.
Previously such substances, which were also rebranded as NPS could be purchased openly in shops or online. However under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 those found producing, supplying and importing NPS risk imprisonment.
Since its introduction there have been questions as to whether the legislation works, if it goes far enough or if it has created further issues. This has also been highlighted by Wrexham Council and North Wales Police, who have previously acknowledged that in many ways NPS are harder to police than the old-style drugs.
Locally a ‘Gold’ command group has been established, bringing together council officials, MP, Assembly Member, police and representatives from various agencies in a bid to tackle the issues in Wrexham.
Speaking after the recent parliamentary meeting, Mr Lucas said: “This meeting was called by the All-Party Group on NPS use after I flagged the issue last year. Wrexham hit the headlines last year after issues with NPS users – but it was by no means the only town or city in the country where there were issues.
“The group involves many MPs from these areas, and we have asked to councils, police forces and other organisations from across the country about how they have handled the situation in their area.
“Today’s meeting looked at some of the findings that work uncovered, and brought together people who have been at the front end of tackling this issue.
“It was also designed as a forum where ideas can be shared – so that towns like Wrexham can learn more from what has been done in cities like Manchester – and vice versa.
“I’d like to thank David Hanson MP, who chaired the meeting very well, Lee Robinson and Paul Firth from Wrexham Council, and everyone else who attended.
He added: “This is a complex problem with no easy solutions, but today’s meeting has given everyone who attended something to build on.”
David Hanson said: “As chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for New Psychoactive Substances and Volatile Substance Abuse I believe it is important to learn from towns and cities across the country how they are tackling NPS.
“Securing this meeting with Wrexham Council and Ian Lucas MP has ensured that we have fresh evidence to produce an in depth report on the Government’s actions on NPS.
“The evidence was of high quality and brought to light a number of issues that the UK Government have missed when they produced legislation on this area. I look forward to working with the council and Ian Lucas MP further so that we can find a solution to this complex issue.”