Two market traders in Leeds have been charged over alleged sales of so-called ‘legal highs’ in one of the first cases of its kind in the country.
The men, who were running a stall at Kirkgate Market, will appear in court next month accused of selling an intoxicating substance to an under-18-year-old.
They are charged under 1985 legislation originally drawn up to crack down on the problem of glue sniffing among teenagers.
It is the first time West Yorkshire Police have used the law to prosecute alleged sales of legal highs – substances that produce similar effects to illegal drugs but are not banned.
If successful, it could set a precedent for further prosecutions both in West Yorkshire and elsewhere.
The two men, aged 37 and 57, were arrested on January 12 following an investigation by West Yorkshire Police drugs specialists and officers from the City Neighbourhood Policing Team.
Officers had previously carried out visits to so-called ‘head shops’ in the city, when warnings were issued about sales of legal highs to under-18s.
As well as being charged with selling an intoxicating substance to a person under the age of 18, the 37-year-old has also been charged with selling equipment used to take drugs.
Police said the charges were brought following detailed consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service.
The pair will appear at Leeds Magistrates’ Court in April.
Some legal highs, including mephedrone, were banned in 2010, but producers are able to circumvent the law by tweaking the chemical composition of substances.
Police and community safety partnership Safer Leeds has an ongoing campaign to target their sale and raise awareness of the health risks associated with them.
Figures released in November linked more than 40 deaths to now-banned legal highs.