Legal Highs – HMP Winchester, but not as you’d recognise it!

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THE use of ‘legal highs’ in Winchester prison has become so rife that three inmates were rushed to hospital in just one day after consuming a potentially deadly substance, the Chronicle can reveal.

Toxic drugs are being smuggled into the prison and have become “a new currency” an MP has warned – with guards and dogs struggling to detect them because of the chemicals they contain.

The epidemic at the Romsey Road jailhouse can be revealed as the Prison Officers Association warned that the problem of new psychoactive substances readily available and used by prisoners nationwide is getting “out of control”.

At Winchester three inmates were taken to hospital on the same day in September after taking a toxic concoction known as ‘spice’.

The revelations at the Winchester Road prison comes after Rev Graham Topping, a former chaplain at the jail, spoke out about how alleged bullying, secrecy and rock-bottom morale is affecting officers.

As previously reported, the prison has had five deaths in custody since July and a source at the prison said the impact they have on inmates is the most “destructive” he has ever seen.

Winchester MP Steve Brine is demanding action over New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) in prisons and has helped move an amendment to a new blanket ban on legal highs to make possession of the substances inside the prison a criminal offence.

The problem at the jail has led to inmates turning violent suddenly without warning.

A source close to Winchester Prison said one prisoner under the influence of spice went on the roof of the prison, and another inmate attacked prison staff with a mop.

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The synthetic cannabis has worrying side effects such as vomiting, seizures, psychosis and, in some cases, death.

A source told the Chronicle how the drugs are now infiltrating the prison and are affecting inmates, resulting in several needing emergency medical treatment.

He said:“Legal highs are probably the biggest threat to prisons. There are a number of difficulties with legal highs, it is very difficult for dogs and staff to detect them due to the chemicals that are in them.

“It makes it easy to get them the drug dogs because of this.”

“I was there for years and I have never seen a drug have such a destructive affect.

“People who take them can go from being perfectly polite to then going completely nuts.”

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“I do not think Winchester has it worse than any other prison, but it makes what is a bad situation a hundred times worse.”

The problems are revealed after damning statistics showed that prison deaths across the country are at the highest level for a decade and the Prison Officers Association (POA) have said the issue is “out of control” across prisons in England.

A statement issued by the POA on its website said: “Members of the POA have consistently challenged budget cuts, staff shortages and the serious increase in prison violence and suicides but no one appears to be listening.

“There have been seven apparent homicides in prisons in the last 12 months and the use of legal highs is clearly out of control.”

In a debate on the Psychoactive Substances Bill in Parliament, Mr Brine expressed his concerns about legal highs which he said are being used as the latest “currency” inside jails.

Mr Brine said: “Reports given to me by HMP-YOI Winchester confirm the use of legal highs inside its walls is now widespread.

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“Winchester now has trained drugs dogs, but there are a variety of compounds used in NPSs, so if the core compound is not the same as the dog has been trained for, it simply misses the substance.

“It seems the new currency inside our prisons is not tobacco or cannabis, but the NPS known as Spice.

“It is a lethal substance existing under the brand names Herbal Haze, Damnation and Space Cadet. The governor told me that on one day last month there were three ambulances in the prison yard, after three prisoners had taken Spice.

Tougher measures to tackle legal high substance are set to be introduced when the new psychoactive substances bill is put through parliament.

 

Rob the poor and give to the rich – housing policy for 2016

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This afternoon, MPs will vote on a proposed law. As a bit of policy, it is as belligerently incoherent as a drunk at 2am. As a piece of politics, it will harm millions of people, while making one of the gravest crises facing our country even worse. Yet I’m fairly sure this piece will be one of the few across the press and the BBC even to discuss it.

Granted, the housing and planning bill can never outdo the excitement surrounding the ups and downs of Hilary Benn, the new Mr Darcy of every wet-eyed columnist. But the UK housing market is a catastrophe so dire that it causes even Manhattanites to marvel. A recent Guardian interactive makes the point: any would-be homebuyer earning the national average of £26,500 will now find 91% of England and Wales beyond their reach. If you can’t buy, you rent – except in London, the epicentre of the madness where rents are so extortionate, newspapers compete for horror stories. Considerthe £480 a month charged for a mattress in the corner of a communal lounge in a shed in the east end.

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You don’t need me to lather on facts and figures. Anyone trying to get a toehold in the housing market, or whose children are, already knows how badly broken it is – and grasps the implications. How it gouges money from those who don’t own only to put it in the pockets of those who do. How it forces anyone from outside London either to accept that they won’t be able to pursue a modestly paying career there – or will have to grind out at least a decade of expensive squalor to do so. And how that makes the UK both more unjust and economically weaker.

David Cameron knows all this. He even makes speeches about how homes in Britain are unaffordable to Britons. The bill in front of MPs is meant to free up social housing for those most in need and to make land and funds available for builders to churn out more private homes. In reality, it will make private homes even more unaffordable while cutting further the stock of homes available below market rent.

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Look at the axe the government is taking to social housing. Before the 2010 general election, Cameron promised to “support” social housing while his soon-to-be ministers pledged to “protect social tenants’ rights and rents”. Now he’s phasing out secure tenancies for those same tenants. A couple living in a council home who earn a total of £30,000 a year (£40,000 within London) – that is, just above minimum wage – will be moved up to market rents. The Treasury will also force local authorities to flog “high value” homes once a family moves out. That spells the end for council housing in central London – specialists estimate that 60% of Camden’s housing stock and 70% of Islington’s would qualify as “high value”.

Couple it with what’s already happening in the private rental market – where poorer families are being pushed out to London’s perimeter, and you have a charter for turning the centre of the city into a rich-only enclave.

If this sounds like the sort of post-adolescent fantasy that would be sketched out in some Westminster thinktank, that’s because it is. Many of these policies have been lifted from the rightwing Policy Exchange. Until 2014 its former housing specialist, Alex Morton, churned out pamphlets such as Ending Expensive Social Tenancies, notably mainly for their flush-cheeked libertarianism, casual dismissal of the rights of those not on stellar incomes, and subheadings such as “Most people actually support forcing people to move from expensive properties”.

For such Rolls-Royce thinking, Morton is now paid somewhere between £53,000 and £69,999 of taxpayers’ money as a special adviser to the prime minister on housing policy – one of Cameron’s fleet of advisers whose salaries cost the public over £9m a year.

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But what sounds good at a conference fringe meeting doesn’t always translate into robust law, and the housing bill has more holes than all the golf courses in suburbia. Try this: the household income assessment of council tenants will be based on the previous year’s earnings. So a family could go through redundancy, divorce or even death and still be forced to cough up “market rents”. Or this: the amount a council is meant to net from the sale of a publicly owned home will be set not by local surveyors, but by Treasury officials. Or this: although the bill’s fixed-term tenancies are aimed at making social housing more flexible, it provides no viable mechanism for evicting antisocial tenants before the term is up.

These are just some of the howlers in a document drafted by the Department for Communities and Local Government – the bit of Whitehall that will be almost obliterated in the spending cuts. As housing lawyer Giles Peaker says: “I seriously wonder who’s left in DCLG who actually understands housing law.”

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The contradictions gape wider and wider. The government that plans to make more use of limited council housing also wants to sell council housing. The ministers who want to make work pay will also make work cost more for council tenants. The administration that think these changes are excellent for half the social-rented sector now won’t apply them to the other half – housing associations – on anything more than a voluntary basis.

Cameron’s big solution to the housing shortage is to invent a new category, “starter homes”, and encourage developers to build them. Developers building homes at up to £450,000 in London and £250,000 in the rest of England will be able to claim them under the rules as “affordable”. As the housing charity Shelter points out, to buy a starter home in the capital by 2020 will require an annual income of £77,000 and a deposit of £98,000. That makes them unaffordable to all but the richest third of Londoners.

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Excerpt from an article written by Aditya Chakraboty in The Independent January 2016

Police in Suffolk & An Old Warning Issued Over Legal Highs

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Emergency services were called to a shop in in Chichestera at around 4pm on Tuesday (October 21) where a man was acting strangely and saying he felt unwell.

He then began damaging the shop, Eddie’s Convenience Store in Millfield Close, before running away and climbing a tree in Baxendale Road. Thankfully the man, a 26-year-old, didn’t do himself any serious damage; however it is believed he had taken so-called legal highs. He was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and was later bailed until November 7 while investigations continue.

Another man was also taken to St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester suffering the effects from what is thought to be a legal high drug. He has since been released.

Police in the area are warning about legal highs after two men were also taken to hospital in Bognor Regis on Tuesday (October 21).

Police were called around 2.15pm to reports of two men taken ill at a property in Stocker Road. The men, both 19, were taken to hospital, but were discharged later that evening.

Detective Inspector Dave Grover said: “We believe all of these men may have taken some type of legal high which made them all very unwell. We urge people to take caution as legal highs often have great health risks. Just because a substance is legal to possess, it doesn’t mean it’s safe. In addition, other damaging health issues have been experienced including paranoid states, psychosis, hallucinations, comas and seizures.”

Police advise that there is a range of people to talk to and there are services available that offer support. They are there to listen to concerns, whether they be from the enquirer or someone they know. These include the NHS website www.nhs.uk and www.talktofrank.com

‘Legal highs are gateway drugs linked to crime’

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Police incidents in Hampshire involving legal highs – also called new psychoactive substances – have shot up from 63 to 403 in just three years, and that is expected to rise as they become more widespread and available to buy.

The message is loud and clear – people of all ages run the serious risk of death or causing permanent damage to their body and health if they buckle to peer pressure and continue to consume these ‘toxic cocktails’.

Doctor Jane Boskovic, who specialises in substance misuse at The Baytrees drink and drugs treatment unit, in Milton, Portsmouth, said: ‘Legal highs are incredibly dangerous and devastating. Having seen some of the devastating results of people taking legal highs, people should be absolutely terrified of taking these drugs. They are equally as dangerous as classic drugs, if not more.

‘Maybe it’s an exciting thing to try these drugs, but people really are playing Russian roulette with their lives.

‘The reason for that is …with legal highs, we don’t know the effect they all have on people’s bodies. They are very addictive in very vast quantities.’

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While some legal highs have been banned under the Misuse of Drugs Act – such as meow meow naphyrone, BZP and GBL – many alternatives are still legal to buy and we are seeking for a blanket ban to be rolled out by the government.

It comes as Portsmouth City Council launches a drive, supported by The News, aimed at increasing awareness of the risks associated with legal highs.

Packs containing posters and postcards are being sent to all secondary schools in the area and specialist training sessions are being held for staff and pupils. Pubs and clubs are also being sent posters, banners and leaflets.

And plans are moving forward to ban legal highs in Portsmouth’s public spaces.

Hampshire police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes, who has campaigned hard on the issue, said: ‘I am totally supportive of The News’ campaign against legal highs.

‘I hope it raises awareness of the very real danger they pose to the public and deters people from putting their lives at risk by using them.

‘For a long time, I have been calling for either a complete ban, or regulation, of all mind-altering substance.

‘Recently, I was very encouraged to hear the police minister say in parliament that he too would like to see a blanket ban on all new psychoactive substances and that we cannot – and should not – tolerate the open sale on our high streets and over the internet of these substances.

‘I intend to continue lobbying the government to do everything possible to prohibit the sale of these toxic cocktails and I look forward to collaborating with partners and the public to limit the harm they cause – particularly to our young people.’

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Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond, who has worked with affected families and campaigned against the rise of legal high ‘head shops’, said: ‘You are putting your life in the hands of a small drug – it could kill you the first time you take them.’

AIMS OF THE CAMPAIGN

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* To ensure the government delivers on its pledge to impose a complete ban on the production, distribution, supply and sale of legal highs by formerly adopting the Psychoactive Substances Bill.

* To raise awareness of the lethal dangers of legal highs, especially among teenagers.

* To ensure other authorities follow the efforts made by Portsmouth City Council to come up with a comprehensive action plan detailing how the ban will be enforced, and who people should contact if they think someone is under the influence or suffering from the effects of legal highs.

* To ensure the government delivers on its pledge to impose a complete ban on the use and sale of legal highs by formerly adopting the Psychoactive Substances Bill.

* To raise awareness of the lethal dangers of legal highs, especially among teenagers.

* To ensure other authorities follow the efforts made by Portsmouth City Council to come up with a comprehensive action plan detailing how the ban will be enforced, and who people should contact if they think someone is under the influence or suffering from the effects of legal highs.

Legal highs and sick rape porn led North Tyneside decorator to tie up and molest customer

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A decorator tied up and molested a terrified customer after going to her house to discuss doing work.

Graham Stevens, never in trouble before, suddenly pounced on the mum as they talked about the work, tying her up with masking tape and subjecting her to a serious sexual assault.

A court heard the usually respectable 53-year-old’s mind had been distorted by legal highs, pornography and rape fantasies.

He grabbed the woman from behind, tied her wrists behind her back, forced her upstairs, taped her mouth and subjected the crying woman to a serious sexual assault in an hour-long ordeal.

The terrified victim, who said he seemed to have been enjoying the attack, said he then suddenly stopped, saying “I can’t do this, I can’t rape you”, before apologising and freeing her.

Stevens was then followed by police as he drove to Holy Island to kill himself but was stopped on the causeway and arrested.

As the attacker, a regular cannabis smoker who spent the night before looking at porn taking legal highs, was jailed for false imprisonment and sexual assault, a judge said he had tried to carry out his sick fantasies.

Judge Brian Forster QC said: “The explanation for what took place appears to be you had been taking drugs and had an interest in pornography.

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“That interest, by reason of your consumption of substances, has led you to carry the fantasy into the reality of your life.”

The court heard Stevens knocked on the victim’s door in North Tyneside one morning in April.

Prosecutor Neil Pallister said: “They were chatting generally and, without warning and completely unexpectedly, he grabbed her from behind.

“He told her to shut up and do as she was told, pushing her to the floor and restraining her with his elbow or knee on her back.

“He had masking tape with him and put her arms behind her back and taped her wrists then lifted her to her feet and forced her to go upstairs, where he covered her mouth with masking tape, despite her struggling and bleeding.”

Stevens then began to molest the woman, who feared she was going to be raped.

Mr Pallister said: “Then all of a sudden he stopped it and took out a spliff and started to smoke it.

“He said ‘I can’t do this, I can’t rape you’.

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“He apologised and she asked him to take off the tape, which he did then left the house.”

Stevens then returned to his home, told his wife she deserved better and said he was going.

After the victim rang police, they spotted him heading north on the A1 and followed him up to the causeway at Holy Island, where he stopped.

He was arrested and admitted the attack, saying he had been smoking legal highs and watching pornography the previous night while his wife was working a night shift.

The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said the attack has had a significant detrimental affect on her life.

She said in a statement to the court: “What he did has impacted on many aspects of my life and has changed the way I live my life.

“He physically hurt me but far greater than the physical impact was the psychological impact.

“It took place in my home, a place I was happy and secure in.

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“I don’t sleep properly, have hot sweats and nightmares and flashbacks about what happened and I find it difficult to be in the area on the landing where this took place. I’ve even redecorated the area to try to change the way I feel about this area of the house.”

Stevens, of West View, Earsdon, pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and sexual assault and was jailed for five years and four months and ordered to sign the sex offender register for life. He was also banned from going within 100 yards of the victim’s home or contacting her as part of a sexual offences prevention order.

Nick Peacock, defending, said Stevens was usually a hard-working family man who was respected in his community and had a reference from his local vicar.

Mr Peacock said: “He is devastated and horrified by what he has done and he accepts the victim must have thought the worst when this began. He wishes through me to apologise to her.”