The dangers of legal highs have been highlighted after a Doncaster addict admitted stealing from his nieces to fund his habit.
Lee Stainforth, had been addicted to heroin for 16 years, but, a court heard, he recently become hooked on a legal high known as Spice – a laboratory-created cannabis substitute said by some experts to be up to 100 times as potent as the drug it mimics.
Doncaster Magistrates’ Court heard 37-year-old Stainforth, of Furnival Road, Balby had periods of sleeping rough as a result of his addictions.
David Sheppard, prosecuting, said Stainforth’s sister, the only member of his family who still had anything to do with him, would on occasion invite him to stay with her, so he could at least have a bed for a few nights, hot meals and a chance to wash his clothes.
Mr Sheppard said: “He repaid that welcome by stealing two mobile phones he knew belonged to his nieces. He sold them both for £10 in the pub.”
Stainforth was jailed for 12 weeks after admitting the theft, on May 31.
Ross Wagstaff, mitigating, said legal highs were becoming something the police and courts were coming into contact with on a regular basis.
He said: “Stainforth’s drug problem remains, but the immediate cause for concern is the legal high use which the police and courts are coming across more often.
“I think this court would be surprised at the extent of the effects these substances are having on people, given people are able to purchase them from shops.”
“He is sorry for what he has done and feels somewhat ashamed of that as he recognises his sister was the only member of his family who supported him, he offers his apologies to his sister and her daughters.
“Sending him to prison would further aggravate his drug problem and affect his accommodation.
“What he needs is support to rid him of his habit”
However, a witness statement from his sister said: “This has left me feeling upset and betrayed. I feel he should be sent to prison.”
Magistrates said they had no confidence Stainforth would comply with a community order and instead jailed him for 12 weeks. He was also ordered to pay £120 compensation.
Helen Conroy, a public health specialist, said that over the last two years, staff at the borough’s drug rehabilitation services have seen a drop in the number of people becoming addicted to illegal opiates such as heroin or crack cocaine – and a rise in the number of people bingeing on a cocktail of alcohol and legal highs, known as novel psychoactive substances,
She said: “What we’re seeing is young people who are beginning to experiment going for legal highs, because they’re so easy to access. A large number are young and vulnerable people.
“There’s almost been a change in the culture of taking drugs, it’s less about addiction and more about bingeing on a combination of things.
“What we want to do is make it more difficult for people to access legal highs, because of the risks to health and to antisocial behaviour.”
During the Queen’s speech in May, the Government announced it is introducing a blanket ban on the production, distribution, sale and supply of all legal highs.
Dealers could face up to seven years in prison under the new rules set to come into force next year.
Detective Inspector Graham Bulmer, South Yorkshire Police lead for drugs and related criminality, said: “Legal highs, or novel psychoactive substances, are a growing area of concern for not only the police, but health agencies and others too.
“Potentially lethal substances are being sold or given to individuals, with no real explanation as to the possible risks or consequences of taking that substance, and many are marketed as ‘not for human consumption’.
“We are particularly worried about the impact of legal highs on the younger members of our community – there seems to be a perception these substances are harmless and less risky than illegal drugs.
“This isn’t the case: the reality is many of these legal highs are incredibly dangerous and pose real risks to peoples’ health.
“We will continue to work closely with local authorities, health agencies and others to tackle this emerging issue.”