Second director prosecuted after selling dangerous ‘legal highs’ in Oxford

On 11 May 2017, at Oxford Magistrates’ Court, Alastair Mark Sanderson, 31, from Harwell (previously Summertown, Oxford) pleaded guilty to six offences of supplying dangerous products to consumers, following an investigation by Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service. He was given an 18 week custodial sentence, suspended for 24 months and ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay Oxfordshire County Council £20,000 in costs.

Mr Sanderson was a former director of RAD Trading Limited, which traded from the shop, Red Eye, on the Cowley Road, Oxford. The shop sold products with names such as Cherry Bomb, Clockwork Orange, Exodus, Blow, China White and Charly 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 shop was shut down in 2015.

Mr Sanderson was the subject of an arrest warrant, issued in October 2015 and it was believed that he was out of the country. He voluntarily attended Abingdon Police Station following the sentencing in January 2016 of Darren Lee Manley, another director of RAD Trading Limited. Mr Manley pleaded guilty to 16 offences relating to the selling of 'unsafe and dangerous' products. As a result, Mr Manley was given a sentence of 6 months imprisonment, suspended for 2 years, a £20,000 fine and ordered to pay £40,000 costs. RAD Trading Limited was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £40,000 costs.

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 Mr Manley, Mr Sanderson and RAD Trading Limited with advice on their requirements under consumer safety legislation and advised 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 defendants continued to sell dangerous products to the public.

Jody Kerman, Trading Standards Operations Manager said:

“This result marks the end of a lengthy and complex investigation by Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service. These products were unsafe and dangerous. They were labelled incorrectly, with attractive sounding names and packaging and contained dangerous substances with no appropriate warnings or instructions for their safe use. The defendants were warned of the concerns surrounding these products, but continued to sell them.”

Richard Webb, Head of Community Protection Services said:

“The county council’s Trading Standards Service, working in partnership with Thames Valley Police and health professionals, took action to stop the open sale of these items on the high street and to bring those responsible before the Courts. New legislation is now in place to cover these items, but at the time of these offences, dangerous products such as these, were being openly sold to consumers in Oxford, from a retail shop. The council’s consistent approach in this matter stopped this from happening well before the new legislation came into being.”