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Head shop law 'won't stand up'

A HEAD shop owners group has told the Minister for Justice that new laws to be brought against them won't hold up in court.

The group is hoping to speak to Dermot Ahern directly to put forward their concerns.

Helen Stone, spokeswoman for Alternative Traders Ireland wrote a letter to Mr Ahern warning him that "private consultations" they had with gardai had led them to believe that new legislation on head shops would be inapplicable in court.

Ms Stone went on to say that she was astonished that the minister was proposing legislation without consulting anyone from the industry.

She said that she believed the bringing forward of the new legislation was a waste of time and a waste of taxpayers' money.

The legislation that Ms Stone is referring to has not been published yet but it is understood that gardai will be given the power to go to the district court to seek an order for closure of a head shop for the offence of "knowing or being reckless" that products would be used for human consumption.

If a head shop wishes to appeal such an order they must prove in the circuit court that the materials it was selling were not for human consumption.

Ms Stone said he was "extremely concerned" at the suggestion head shops could be closed down, and that the onus would be upon them to go to court and prove their legality.

The head shop group is increasingly frustrated at the lack of communication coming from the Government ahead of the new legislation.

Ms Stone said that she has requested meetings with three Government departments but all of those requests had been refused.

She said that she had contacted Mr Ahern a number of years ago regarding the regulation of the industry but had received no reply.

The group has previously said that it would support members who may be involved in legal actions, where it perceives those actions to be unjust.