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Guilty pleas entered in groundbreaking prosecution over sale of so-called legal highs in Belfast, High Court hears

By Alan Erwin

Published 20/04/2015

Michael Yeo (22) threatened to kill her in the incident, during which he crashed into another vehicle, prosecutors claimed
Michael Yeo (22) threatened to kill her in the incident, during which he crashed into another vehicle, prosecutors claimed

Guilty pleas have been entered in a groundbreaking prosecution over the sale of so-called legal highs in Belfast, the High Court heard today.

A judge was told admissions were made by two men facing charges of supplying a dangerous product, namely Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) at a city centre shop.

A woman who worked at Soho Bookshop was said to have pleaded guilty at an earlier stage.

But the case against a fourth defendant has been dropped because they are now believed to be fictitious.

The developments, in proceedings brought by Belfast City Council, represent the first convictions over the sale of so-called legal highs in the UK.

Criminal action was taken in tandem with civil litigation to secure a ban on the trader selling any NPS from the Gresham Street premises.

An interim order, imposed by Mr Justice Deeny at the High Court last November, was granted under the General Product Safety Regulations.

Attorney General John Larkin QC and the City Council jointly sought the prohibition against Ashley James Campbell, Aiden Kerr, Ian Brown, Susan Bradshaw, Infernal Publishing Ltd and Soho Bookshop of Gresham Street in Belfast.

Under its terms they are prohibited from selling NPS anywhere in Northern Ireland.

With legal efforts to secure a full injunction continuing, a barrister for the council, confirmed in court today that Campbell and Brown - both believed to live in the Ballymena area - entered guilty pleas three weeks ago.

The counts against them involved failing to comply with safety regulations by selling the NPS on various dates between October 2013 and July 2014.

Bradshaw pleaded guilty to similar offences earlier this year.

But referring to the case against Kerr, Charles McCreanor QC told the court: "We have, without prejudice, withdrawn the criminal proceedings because we don't believe Aiden Kerr exists."

Confirming his client's intention to seek a full injunction, the barrister asked for an adjournment until after sentences are imposed at Belfast Magistrates' Court.

Mr Justice Deeny agreed to list the case for a further review in June.

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