Friday, July 23, 2004

Jail threat over magic mushrooms

Traders selling magic mushrooms could be jailed despite the fact it is legal to sell them in their natural state, the Home Office says.

It is only illegal to possess or supply magic mushrooms that have been "processed", such as frozen or dried.

Numerous online and high street traders have begun operating in recent months.

But the Home Office has looked at the law and now believes "if fresh magic mushrooms are packaged as a product and are offered for sale that is unlawful".

A Home Office spokesman said: "It is an operational matter for the police whether or not to initiate a prosecution. If they decide to do so, it would then be a matter for the courts to determine whether any misuse of drugs offence has been committed".

Magic mushrooms contain the substances psilocin and psilocybin, and these are controlled as a Class A drugs in "processed" mushrooms.

People convicted of supplying them could be jailed for life and face an unlimited fine. A possession conviction could earn seven years in jail and a fine.

National Drug Prevention Alliance director Peter Stoker said that eliminating magic mushroom trading would be "a move in the right direction".

"We need to look at [magic mushrooms] in the same way as other drugs of abuse," he said.

"With any kind of intoxication you have got risks of accident either to the person involved or to other people and that has got to be a health and safety issue.

"But the main thing is that it is the thin end of the drug abuse wedge. It preconditions people to getting their highs and kicks in life by putting toxic chemicals inside themselves."

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Head teacher opts for drugs testing

Head teacher Peter Walker is introducing random drugs testing at his school in January next year. He believes this is the best way forward in the fight against drug abuse.

Until recently, Mr Walker was against random drugs testing in schools, believing the political climate was not supportive.

But when, in February, the prime minister, Tony Blair, said head teachers would be given powers to introduce such measures, Mr Walker decided to take him up on the offer.

"Prevention is not often appreciated, but it's by far the most effective way if you can get it to work," says Mr Walker, head of The Abbey School in Faversham, Kent.

"And I think random drugs testing is probably the best form of prevention that's open to me at this particular time.

"To say there's a big drugs problem in schools is fallacious, but we do have our part to play and that's what I want to do. I really wish there wasn't a need for this."

Naturally, the notion of random drugs testing raises questions about privacy and civil liberties, but Mr Walker says he is primarily seeking "quality of life" for his pupils.

"I respect people's right to question it all, but I ask them to bear in mind the rights of the majority and their right to learn unhindered.

"And that means in an environment where they are not being affected by people who are behaving badly or suffering mood swings because of the effects of drugs."

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Drug smuggler haulage boss jailed

The owner of a Kent haulage company has been jailed for 20 years after being convicted of smuggling over £600,000 worth of cocaine through Dover.

George Taylor, 49, of London Road, Wrotham, concealed the drugs in special aluminium tubes he had made.

They were then placed inside the axles of a lorry trailer.

Canterbury Crown Court heard he had already served a prison sentence after being found guilty of being involved in a drugs smuggling operation in 1991.

John Dodd, prosecuting, told the court that Taylor had been caught on 13 January 2003 after an intensive surveillance operation by Customs Officers.

His lorry had been followed from the depot in Wrotham where he ran his business, JJOG Transport, to Zeebrugge, where it was driven into a garage.

The lorry emerged loaded with another trailer, which was searched on its arrival at Dover.

A specially-made tool was found which unlocked the hub caps on the trailer to reveal six tubes containing a total of 20kg of powder of which nearly 10kg was pure cocaine, the court was told.

In court, Taylor said he had had the tubes made to transport fragile computer parts which were being damaged in transit.

He said that he had been asked to pick up the trailer for delivery in Northampton and that he had no idea the drugs were on board.

Passing sentence, Judge Anthony Webb said it had been an extremely sophisticated operation of which Taylor had been the organiser.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Drugs haul leads to three arrests

Three men have been arrested and class A drugs worth £600,000 seized in Kent.

The men, one from Bristol and two from Kent, were arrested in Wrotham by Avon and Somerset Police on suspicion of conspiracy to supply.

A total of £100,000 was found during the arrests, which were the result of a long-term operation involving several agencies, police said.

The men, aged 39, 59 and 50, are currently being questioned at a police station in Bristol.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Customs officer held over drugs

customs officer based at Gatwick Airport has been arrested following a series of raids aimed at smashing an organised drug smuggling ring.

He was one of nine people arrested on Thursday in raids at addresses across London which involved more than 100 customs and police officers.

A customs spokesman said Operation Gunned, which began in January, had led to the seizure of 35kg of cocaine.

Customs chairman Mike Eland said corruption would not be tolerated.