After our summer break, we wanted to do a piece about an issue that is causing growing concern across the region – that of legal highs, also known as psychoactive substances.
These can come in the form of synthetic cannabis, powders or other substances of unknown ingredients and strength.
We asked the PSNI a range of questions about their efforts to address the sale and use of legal highs – and we also asked Royal Mail about their detention processes for legal highs at distribution centres where packets have been bought online.
We asked the police what work with external bodies they have undertaken to stop the sale of legal highs here, or being delivered to addresses here.
The PSNI told us that the are engaged with the NCA, DOJ, DHSSPS, PPS, Forensic Science Agency NI, Councils and the Attorney General.
As part of that engagement, the PSNI alongside local councils used the General Product Safety Regulations to seize items and effectively ban the sale of legal highs which resulted in the closure of all so called head shops which sell legal highs over the counter.
There are seven teams of 15 officers within the police which tackle Organised Crime, including those deemed to be involved in the production and sale of these substances.
Crucially, we also asked the police if they utilised human intelligence sources – informants – and if any of these were under the age of 18. The PSNI issued us with a Neither Confirm or Deny response – for a number of reasons such as national security and the integrity of ongoing investigations.
Royal Mail were asked to outline their detection processes for legal highs and how many items they have detected and seized in a certain timeframe.
A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Royal Mail does not knowingly carry any illegal items in its network. Where Royal Mail has any suspicion that illegal items are being sent through our system, we always work closely with the police and other authorities to assist their investigations and to prevent such activities from happening. For obvious reasons, we are not able to give any further details about our security measures as this would compromise our operations.”