Nitrous oxide taken as 'currency' to Leeds Festival, court told

Leeds Festival at Bramham Park in 2016. Photo by PA.
Leeds Festival at Bramham Park in 2016. Photo by PA.

A man who was found at Leeds Festival with more than 300 canisters of nitrous oxide took the substance as a “currency” to buy alcohol or tobacco from others, a court was told.

Alex Bourt-Windsor pleaded guilty to possession of a psychoactive substance with intent to supply earlier this month.

The offence comes under the new Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, which came into effect only months before the Bramham Park festival.

Bourt-Windsor, 30, of Lennox Road, Islington, London, was yesterday sentenced to a 12 month community order with a rehabilitation activity requirement.

Prosecutor Nigel Wray said that on the evening of August 25 – the day before music started – the defendant was caught by a security guard at the festival with 335 canisters in his bag.

He was arrested at 7.20pm and police officers also found balloons under his waist band in a Sainsbury’s bag.

Mr Wray told a previous hearing that the canisters are commonly used to inflate balloons but produce a 'high' lasting around 60 seconds if inhaled.

Forensic tests confirmed that a random sample of 19 of the canisters contained nitrous oxide – commonly known as ‘laughing gas’.

Christopher Morton, mitigating, said: “The defendant and four friends had clubbed together. He bought the gas canisters for them to share. He was supplying for friends initially.

“Some of the gas canisters would initially have been used as a currency to buy alcohol and to buy tobacco at the festival. Apparently it’s common practice.”

He added that the defendant, who is a professional chef and part-time musician with a daughter, had taken measures in recent months to address his drug taking.

Mr Wray told the court that under the 2016 act, it is an offence if a person in possession of a psychoactive substance intends to supply it.

Although the offence carries a maximum of seven years in prison, Mr Wray said that neither his colleagues or the CPS Prosecution College could assist him in terms of guidelines for how Bourt-Windsor could be sentenced.

The Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier QC, told the defendant: “I’m quite satisfied you were planning to make some money out of these.”

Nitrous oxide

According to drugs advice service Frank, nitrous oxide is a gas with several legitimate uses but when inhaled it can make people feel euphoric and relaxed – which has led to it being nicknamed ‘laughing gas’.

It is used to numb pain during medical procedures such as dental work, in engines to increase their power, and also in whipped cream aerosol cans to prevent the product from going bad.

Frank says that nitrous oxide can dizziness and affect your judgement. It could even lead to unconsciousness or death from lack of oxygen.

This occurs when the available oxygen for breathing is effectively pushed out by the nitrous oxide, according to the service.

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