'Laughing gas' ban will help tackle antisocial behaviour' Commissioner says
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall has said a ban on possession of nitrous oxide will help her and partners bear down on antisocial behaviour (ASB).
From November 8 possession of nitrous oxide, also known as ‘laughing gas’, is illegal with repeat serious users facing up to two years in prison and dealers up to 14 years.
The ban, promised as part of the government’s Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, makes nitrous oxide a Class C drug controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This means possession of nitrous oxide, where a person intends to wrongfully inhale it for a psychoactive effect – is now an offence.
Consequences could include an unlimited fine, a visible community punishment, a caution – which would appear on their criminal record – and for repeat serious offenders, a prison sentence.
Reducing ASB is one of four priorities in the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Plan, a strategic roadmap towards creating safer communities created by Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez.
She said: “Reports have linked nitrous oxide to anti-social behaviour such as intimidating gatherings on high streets and in children’s parks. All too often those I speak to in our communities find empty canisters scattered across public spaces.
“Heavy, regular abuse of the drug also poses significant health risks for users including anaemia and in more severe cases, nerve damage or paralysis. It has been identified as having potentially fatal consequences on the UK’s roads from incidents of drug driving. As creating safer roads is also one of my priorities I welcome this move by the Government to send a clear signal to people, especially young people, that not only is abuse of nitrous oxide dangerous to their health, but it is also illegal and those caught possessing it will face consequences.”
Licences will not be required to carry nitrous oxide, but individual users will need to demonstrate they are lawfully in possession of nitrous oxide and not intending to wrongfully inhale it.
The maximum sentence for production, supply importation or exportation of the drug for unlawful purposes has now doubled, from seven to 14 years’ imprisonment.
As is already the case, there is also a responsibility on legitimate producers and suppliers of nitrous oxide to not be reckless as to whether someone is buying their product for wrongful inhalation, with no legitimate reason. Turning a blind eye will also be committing an offence.
If people are concerned about nitrous oxide use in their local area such as in parks and playgrounds they can report this anti-social behaviour to their local neighbourhood policing team, the police or Crimestoppers.
People can report antisocial behaviour by contacting their local neighbourhood policing team via https://www.police.uk/ or call 101 to contact the police and report a crime that is not an emergency.