Release does not support this Bill but has proposed amendments to lessen the disproportionate impact on human rights and the harmful impact of the bill. Below details the main points from the publication:
- An amendment to be included for an impact assessment – evidence from Ireland and Poland shows increased prevalence and health harms associated with the use of NPS since the introduction of similar legislation, it is important that the Government ensures that this approach does not lead to an increase in harm.
- The definition of ‘Psychoactive substance’ to be limited to ‘synthetic psychoactive substance’ - this ensures that those substances that are the most harmful and the target of this legislation are covered by the new definition and limits the fact that the current definition covers a range of substances which fall outside the definition of NPS but which would fall within the remit of the Act.
- Personal use of NPS that are imported/exported/ or produced should not be an offence. Government has followed the advice of the Expert NPS panel to avoid criminalising possession, the inclusion of personal use being an offence in relation to the activities listed undermines this approach and fails to recognise that a large number of young people who use NPS import the substances via online websites.
- A defence should be made available if a person can prove the substance is commonly use and is low risk.
- There should be an appeal mechanism against both prohibition and premises notices. Notices should also only have effect for a definite period, currently under the draft legislation they would be indefinite.
- We have proposed a number of other exempted substances including – cosmetic products; aromatherapy products; substances used in religious ceremonies; and substances which the body naturally produce.
- Release, with the support of the National Aids Trust, would argue that amyl nitrates should be excluded due to the disproportionate effect on the gay community and the fact the empirical evidence suggests the risk of harm is negligible.
- Finally, the Proceeds of Crimes Act is to be amended to include the offences under this Act. If personal use of imported/exported or produced NPS is not deleted from the legislation then an offence that has personal use at its basis would potentially be subject to a POCA investigation – clearly this is not the aim of POCA.