‘Legal highs’ were never legal

On 9 January 2017, at Oxford Crown Court, Darren Manley and the company of which he was a director, RAD Trading Limited, pleaded guilty to 16 offences relating to the selling of unsafe and dangerous products to consumers.

Trading from his shop, Red Eye on the Cowley Road, Oxford, Mr Manley sold products with such names as King B, Cherry Bomb, Blow and Charlie Sheen under the descriptions of research chemicals and herbal incenses. However an investigation by Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service showed that the foreseeable use of these products was that they were being sold for recreational purposes, commonly referred to as ‘legal highs’ – and that they were both unsafe and dangerous.

The Trading Standards investigation began in 2014, after concerns were raised from health professionals regarding the impact of such products on vulnerable people. In May 2014, Trading Standards Officers provided both Mr Manley and RAD Trading Limited advice on their requirements under consumer safety legislation and that the council believed that ‘legal highs’ as they were currently being sold, were unsafe. However, after repeated visits to the Red Eye shop in Oxford by Trading Standards, the defendant and the company continued to sell dangerous products to the public.

Jody Kerman, Trading Standards Operations Manager, Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service said:

“The way these products were sold meant that they were not legal at all. The products were labelled incorrectly and contained dangerous substances with no appropriate warnings or instructions for their safe use.

“Whilst there is new legislation in place now that cover these items, at the time of these offences, dangerous products such as these, were being openly sold to consumers in Oxford, from a retail shop. This helped to add to the public perception that these were safe and legal products. The council’s consistent approach in this matter stopped this from happening well before the new legislation came in to being.

Councillor Rodney Rose, the Deputy Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, who also has Cabinet responsibility for the Trading Standards Service, said: 

“This action shows the determination of Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service, working in partnership with Thames Valley Police and health professionals, to ensure products on sale in Oxfordshire are safe. These items were on open sale and the company failed to act when we made them aware of the risks associated with them.”

Sentencing has been adjourned until 17 January 2017 at Oxford Crown Court.