News item

TS investigation delivers mephedrone prosecution

Thanks to the efforts of trading standards officers from South Ayrshire Council, the owners of an Ayr shop were fined a total of £1,250 on 28 October) in the only known Scottish prosecution brought in relation to the sale of mephedrone before it became a banned substance earlier this year.

Frank Nicholson and Margaret McCracken, co-owners of the Bodystyle 'adult theme' shop in Ayr's Burns Statue Arcade, were sentenced at Ayr Sheriff Court after pleading guilty to separate charges at earlier hearings.

Mr Nicholson was fined £550 for an offence under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, while Ms McCracken was fined £700 for culpable and reckless conduct.

Moonshine ephedrine packThe charges related to the sale of the mephedrone product, 'Moonshine', and were brought following a seven months' investigation by South Ayrshire Council's trading standards team.

The investigation got underway in August 2009 – months before the product was classified as a 'Class B' drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act in April 2010 – in response to concerns about the consumption of mephedrone in the South Ayrshire area.

As the product was not classified as a drug at that time, Strathclyde Police were unable to take any action, leaving the Council to lead the investigation.

Trading standards officers were aware 'Moonshine' was being sold in the Bodystyle store and, while the product was described as a 'bath salt', 'plant food' and 'not for human consumption', suspected the owners knew the product was being ingested by customers.

When efforts to have the product removed from sale on a voluntary basis failed, trading standards seized Bodystyle's stock of Moonshine for labelling infringements. However, further products – with different labelling – subsequently appeared for sale.

The Council's team then undertook a covert test purchase, which was videoed by officers, and captured Ms McCracken giving advice on how to take Moonshine, telling one undercover officer to 'line it up like a line of Charlie' – a common reference to cocaine.

A second covert visit resulted in the store selling Moonshine to a volunteer test purchaser under 18 years old.

With support from experts at Glasgow University and Guy's & St Thomas Hospital in London, the Council then passed its findings to the Procurator Fiscal's office, resulting in today's successful outcome.

Councillor Peter Convery, South Ayrshire Council's Portfolio Holder for Sustainability and the Environment, said: 'Today marks the successful conclusion of our extensive and challenging investigation and marks another first for South Ayrshire Council with the only prosecution in relation to the sale of this harmful product before it was rightly classified as a drug.

'I hope today's sentences remind traders they cannot gamble with consumer safety by producing and selling untested so-called 'legal high' products. Never again do we want to experience the same tragedies as earlier this year when two local young men died as a result of taking mephedrone, which was then seen as one of these legal highs.

'Our young people deserve better than to be treated as guinea pigs for products like these, which flout a variety of safety laws and only serve to make money for the suppliers. This Council will not tolerate actions like this and we will continue to do all we can to keep these products – and many others like them – out of the supply chain.

'While the police could not bring any charges because of the non-classification of mephedrone at the time, the actions of people like Mr Nicholson and Ms McCracken and stores like Bodystyle are nothing short of criminal and the courts have recognised that.'

South Ayrshire Press Release 28 October 2010