Lincoln council considers first ban on legal high use in the country

People in Lincoln are facing a ban from taking so-called ‘legal highs’ in the city centre – which the city council believe will be a first in the country.

The City of Lincoln Council have launched a four week public consultation asking people to give their views.

The ban would stop people using intoxicating substances in the city centre under a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).

New legislation introduced on October 20 allows local councils to place an order where persistent activities are having a detrimental effect on the quality of life for people in the community.

This new power has been introduced as an option for the replacement of existing Designated Public Place Orders, which currently allow the prevention of alcohol consumption under certain circumstances in certain areas.

This was introduced by the council and enforced by Lincolnshire Police in the city centre, the Arboretum and Temple Gardens.

The ban would be in force in the city centre.

The ban on alcohol and ‘legal highs’ would be in force in the outlined area of Lincoln.

The new order is not just restricted to alcohol consumption and allows the council to tackle a wider range of issues.

The order would not include smoking tobacco or substances used for medicinal reasons.

Anyone who breaches the order would be committing a criminal offence and could receive a Fixed Penalty Notice or face a fine in court.

Police and council enforcement officers would have the power to demand the surrender of the intoxicating substances.

If agreed, the order can apply for up to three years, when it will be subject to another consultation and review.

Responses from the formal consultation will be put before the council’s Policy Scrutiny Committee on December 17, when members will be invited to make recommendations to the Executive ahead of their meeting on January 19.

It is hoped a final recommendation will go before full council on February 24. If approved, the order would commence on April 1, 2015.

Anyone wishing to take part in the consultation, should complete an online survey. Responses must be received by 5pm on Monday, December 15. Paper copies of the consultation are available by calling 01522 873378.

Sam Barstow, Service Manager for Public Protection and Anti-Social Behaviour, said: “The main difference between the existing powers and this new proposal is that it gives us the ability to tackle on-street alcohol consumption and the use of so-called legal highs.

“The Designated Public Place Order required police to be satisfied consumption of the alcohol would lead to anti-social behaviour, which led to difficulties in enforcement.

“The new order would be a complete ban on consuming both alcohol and legal highs in the city centre.”

Councillor Fay Smith, Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services and Public Protection, has approved the start of a consultation on the option to introduce a new PSPO covering Lincoln city centre.

The order would contain the following prohibition:

  • Person(s) within this area will not ingest, inhale, inject, smoke or otherwise use intoxicating substances.

Intoxicating substances is given the following definition (which includes alcohol and what are commonly referred to as ‘legal highs’): Substances with the capacity to stimulate or depress the central nervous system.

Councillor Smith said: “New psychoactive substances, commonly known as ‘legal highs’, are a concern to the council and other agencies. Their availability and usage have had an impact in the city centre, where the lower High Street and St Mary’s Street in particular have suffered increases in anti-social behaviour.

“The negative effect of this continuing behaviour makes it unreasonable and has a detrimental effect on the quality of life for people in the area. We are also committed to taking any action to improve community safety and protect the reputation of the city centre.

“This proposal for a new PSPO is a proactive approach that will allow the council and Lincolnshire Police to tackle on-street use of legal highs, alcohol and any other intoxicating substances within the city centre, helping to prevent the issues this causes and offer support and intervention to those who need it.”

The council’s proposed action is in response to a call from the Local Government Association, which represents almost 400 councils, for a ban on the sale of legal highs.

Nationally, deaths from legal highs have more than doubled in the past four years from 26 in 2009 to 60 in 2013, according to the 2013/14 Crime Survey for England and Wales.