Head shop bosses face charges over risk to customers
GETTING TOUGH: 13 stores may be prosecuted
THIRTEEN city head shops could face prosecution for the reckless endangerment of their customers.
Gardai have submitted a series of files to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in an attempt to stall the spread of shops selling so-called "legal highs".
If charges are pursued by the DPP the shop owners or assistants could face up to a year in prison within the jurisdiction of the district court, or seven years if charges through the higher courts are preferred.
Gardai are claiming that some head shop assistants are guilty of reckless endangerment after observing the staff giving advice on how to consume legal highs labelled not fit for human consumption.
It comes as politicians prepare legislation that would force head shop owners to prove in court that they are not selling mind-altering drugs.
If passed by the Oireachtas the new laws would effectively give gardai the power to shut down shops.
The legislation has been drafted by senior officials from the Department of Justice and the Attorney General's office but it could be the end of the summer before it is enacted.
It will follow on from a Department of Health directive banning a range of currently legal products from June.
In the meantime, gardai in a number of districts are trying to target head shops that they believe knowingly selling potentially dangerous substances for human consumption.
The Herald previously revealed how officers in the Dublin's north inner city launched a low-key campaign to closely monitor activities at shops in the area.
Their actions were met with a hostile reception as legal letters were delivered to garda stations, warning officers off searching their premises.
However, as part of the operation, three head shops have closed after gardai urged landlords to take responsibility for their premises, and over breaches of fire regulations.
A Dublin City Council policing committee heard yesterday that gardai are ready to make arrests in relation to 13 head shops if the DPP directs.
They would be acting under the 1997 Non-Fatal Offences Against the Persons Act, which states: "A person shall be guilty of an offence who intentionally or recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or serious harm."
Chief Superintendent Pat Leahy told the meeting that robberies in his Dublin north central division had gone up and many were "directly related" to head shops.
He noted that on two occasions teens had to be taken to hospital before they could be interviewed about their actions.
Labour TD Joe Costello said: "The gardai are looking at all the angles and turning the screw whatever way they can.
"This is very encouraging for the community."