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Legal Highs – the fightback begins

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A NUMBER of businesses selling ‘legal highs’ in Carmarthenshire were targeted as part of a Trading Standards crackdown, after a spate of serious incidents involving unnamed drugs.
An illegal product has been seized from two Carmarthenshire businesses, and another business has voluntarily surrendered their stock of the product ‘Amsterdam Gold’, also labelled as ‘Liquid Gold’, after finding it contravened the General Products Safety Regulations 2005 and The Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009. The businesses involved cannot be named pending further prosecution. A product sold online as Amsterdam Gold is described as an alkyl nitrate derivative, but it has not been confirmed that the product seized is the same.
In the last week alone, three people in Llanelli Town Centre have been hospitalised after taking the as-yet unidentified substances.
On March 26 two teenagers in Llanelli Town Centre required the assistance of an ambulance, which police said was connected to legal drug use.
On April 1 a 40 year-old man collapsed at Carousel Amusements in Llanelli Town Centre, and was conveyed to Prince Philip Hospital by ambulance. A police spokesperson said that the incident was ‘believed to be linked to legal highs’.
In Pembrokeshire it is thought that legal highs may have played a part in the sudden deaths of two men, Dean Boswell, 36, and 40 year-old Stephen John from Pembroke Dock.
Carmarthenshire County Council’s Trading Standards Manager Roger Edmunds said: “We are working proactively to seize illegal products from businesses, and to advise businesses about the sale of so-called legal highs. As the name suggests, many of these products can be legally sold, however that does not mean they are safe. We are concerned about several products currently on sale in Carmarthenshire and are running analysis on these products to determine whether they are fit for sale.”
While the sale of legal highs is not outlawed, the trading standards officers have certain powers to ensure public safety.
It is the view of some senior law enforcement officers that on their own the police force can have little effect when it comes to tackling the problem of legal drugs.
Many formerly legal drugs have been placed on the list of prohibited substances in the last few years, but there are an almost infinite number of variants, which differ in minute ways, and which have not yet been made illegal.
Shops selling legal highs can fall foul of trading standards regulations in two ways – through the Consumer Protection against Unfair Trading regulations of 2008, and the 2005 General Product Safety Regulations (GPSR).
In the first instance, it must be proved that customers are misled into a transaction they would not usually make, like paying £15 for a sachet of ‘bath salts’, or ‘plant food’. This is often difficult.
Under the GPSR, Trading Standards Officers have a range of powers, including entering premises with a warrant, making test purchases and undertaking testing, and placing suspension or withdrawal notices on products.
Carmarthenshire Trading Standards officers used this tactic, buying samples of other substances from a number of Carmarthenshire businesses in test purchases and subjecting them to chemical analysis to determine whether they can be legally sold.
Trading Standards have confirmed they are working with the Home Office to bring about changes in the law which will allow them to take more products off the shelf.
Cllr Jim Jones, Executive Board Member for public protection, said: “Our hands are tied behind our backs in some cases, where the law does not allow us to take the kind of action we’d like to get these products off the shelf. However, we want to assure people that we are doing all we can
The use of Trading Standards legislation to tackle the sale of legal highs has been implemented to great effect in other areas of the country. Last year, forces in Kent and Cornwall seized a range of drugs for testing, and issued shops with warning notices.

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Wales completes move to alert level 0

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THE MOVE completes the Welsh Government’s phased lifting of the alert level 2 protections, which were put in place on Boxing Day to keep Wales safe as the omicron wave swept across the country.

Some important protections will remain in place at alert level 0, including mandatory face coverings in most indoor public places, including on public transport.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the relaxation of protections was possible thanks to the hard work of everyone in Wales and the success of the vaccination programme – more than 1.8 million booster doses have been given.

And, since the start of December, more than 36,000 people have come forward to have their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We have passed the peak of this omicron wave and there are encouraging signs that cases of coronavirus may be starting to stabilise. But we all need to continue taking steps to stay safe – unfortunately the pandemic is not over yet.

“We are moving to alert level 0 and we will retain some important protections, such as face coverings in most indoor public places and risk assessments.

“We can do this thanks to the hard work and efforts of everyone in Wales and the remarkable success of our vaccine and booster programmes. Thank you all.”

On Friday 28 January, Wales will complete the move to alert level 0. This means:

  • Nightclubs can re-open.
  • The general requirement of 2m social distancing in all premises open to the public and workplaces will be removed.
  • The rule of six will no longer apply to gatherings in regulated premises, such as hospitality, cinemas and theatres.
  • Licensed premises will no longer need to only provide table service and collect contact details. The Covid Pass will continue to be required to enter larger indoor events, nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and concert halls.
  • Working from home will remain important but it will no longer be a legal requirement.
  • Businesses, employers and other organisations must continue to undertake a specific coronavirus risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise the spread of coronavirus, which may include 2m social distancing or controlled entry.

Face-covering rules, which apply on public transport and in most public indoor places will remain in force after 28 January, with the exception of hospitality settings such as restaurants, pubs, cafes and nightclubs.

Everyone must also continue to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus but the Welsh Government has reduced the self-isolation period from seven to 5 full days.

People are advised to take 2 negative lateral flow tests 24 hours apart on days 5 and 6. The self-isolation support scheme payment will return to the original rate of £500 for all those who are eligible.

The next 3-weekly review of the coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 10 February, when all the measures at alert level 0 will be reviewed.

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Police investigating suspicious fire at Vodafone mast tower in Llanelli

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE are investigating a fire which caused significant damage to a service room at the Vodafone mast tower in Bigyn Road, Llanelli.  

The fire, which is being treated as suspicious, happened sometime between 10pm on Monday 24th and 2.30am on Tuesday 25th January 2022.

No-one was injured in the fire.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation, or anyone who has CCTV or dash cam footage of the area at the time. is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Quote reference: DP-20220125-075.

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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Denial of Wales-specific Covid inquiry ‘no longer tenable’ say Welsh Conservatives

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THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES have reiterated their call for an inquiry that focuses exclusively on the actions of the Welsh Government in tackling coronavirus in a letter to the First Minister.

It was prompted after it was revealed that the Welsh Government have been aware that NHS Wales was not prepared for an airborne virus as far back as 2004, following the SARS outbreak. Despite committing to an audit and allocation to rectify the lack of isolation facilities, this did not materialise.

The letter from Andrew RT Davies MS, which states “decision made in Wales should be scrutinised in Wales” follows a weekend when Mark Drakeford was keen to highlight that his government had “always taken a different approach in Wales [compared to the British Government], one that does things step-by-step”.

Concerned: Andrew RT Davies

In the letter, the Welsh Conservatives leader questions why, despite him stressing divergences in the approach to coronavirus, the First Minister still feels it “inappropriate to separate” from the British Government “when the time comes for accountability”.

The Labour Government policy is for its actions to be included in the UK-wide inquiry that will chiefly investigate the actions of the Conservative Government. There will be a Scotland-specific inquiry after Nicola Sturgeon commissioned one.

Joining the Welsh Conservatives in their calls for a Wales-specific inquiry are the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Group, the British Lung Foundation, Medics 4 Mask Up Wales, the Institute for Welsh Affairs, and Plaid Cymru.

Commenting on the letter, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “The position of exercising wide-ranging emergency powers that curtailed the liberty and closed the economy of the Welsh people but avoiding accountability through an inquiry that focusses on how those decisions were made is no longer tenable.

“Under Mark Drakeford, Wales has experienced the highest Covid death-rate of UK nations, seen its children lose more time for learning than anywhere else in the country, and imposed economically cruel and clinically unnecessary restrictions in an overzealous attempt to tackle the Omicron variant.

“We, along with bereaved families and medical groups, believe that the decisions that led to these outcomes need to be put under the spotlight, not hidden in the shadow of an inquiry that will inevitably focus on the British Government.

“Indeed, if Mark Drakeford is so confident in the actions of his government, then why is he against having them examined in a Wales-specific inquiry? That is what people will be asking when British and Scottish leaders have ordered investigations into their own handling of the pandemic.

“As I say to the First Minister in my letter, it is not too late for him to change his mind and take this opportunity to do the right thing and order that inquiry.”

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