Psychoactive Substances Bill

Written evidence submitted by Lyndon Sheppard (PSB 02)

I've worked as a problem-solver in a number of organisations and have been interpreting legislation in advice-giving organisations since 1996.

1. I listened to Niamh Nic Daeid describe her work in connection with psychoactive substances on Radio 4 (21 July) - www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b062k9zz . This game of cat and mouse is impressive, but exhausting and needless – the onus is on public servants to prove the claims that the marketer of a medicinal product would make for it. I cannot see why the burden of proof should be reversed in this way.

2. I believe the proposed bill could be redrafted as follows, to amend existing legislation and put the onus on the creator or supplier of the product (who will no doubt be in pursuit of financial or other gain) to take steps or produce the necessary documentation to avoid committing an offence:

a) the definition of 'medicinal product' (www.gov.uk/guidance/decide-if-your-product-is-a-medicine-or-a-medical-device) is altered (if necessary) to clearly catch these substances,

b) an offence is defined to cover the range of likely situations in which undesirable psychoactive substances (an unauthorised product) are created or supplied, which would not catch the well-intentioned,

c) the desired penalties already sought will apply pretty much as drafted.

3. I do appreciate that this will require the involvement of the Department of Health as well as the Home Office in support of the bill.

explanatory notes - overview

2 Clause 2 defines a "psychoactive substance" for the purposes of the Bill. Schedule 1 lists substances, such as food, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, medical products and controlled drugs, which are excluded from the definition.

3 Clauses 4 to 9 make it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, import or export psychoactive substances. The maximum sentence is seven years’ imprisonment. Clause 10 enables regulations to be made to provide for exemptions to these offences.

I'm concerned that this legislation will be ineffective and very wasteful of resources, but I believe that a small change could make it a very powerful tool.

From what I know of Government, if this bill was a Department of Health initiative rather than Home Office sponsored, it would look quite different, and perhaps more like my suggestion.

I hope that as our elected members with no departmental responsibility, you can avoid the waste of effort to pass an ineffective public bill or to commit Governments present and future to endless testing with little resulting protection for the public.

October 2015

55 Queens Terrace Newcastle NE2 2PL

Prepared 27th October 2015