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Teen gets criminal record for taking laughing gas to a house party

A 19-year-old has been convicted of supplying nitrous oxide under a new law after he 'bought a big batch' with friends

15 February, 2017 — By William McLennan

A TEENAGER grieving the loss of his father has been handed a criminal conviction for taking laughing gas to a house party in one of the first prosecutions of its kind.

Alfie Richards appeared at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court on Friday morning accused of dealing nitrous oxide gas – a popular party drug that was legal until May last year.

The 19-year-old, from Gospel Oak, had been riding his moped to meet friends on October 16 last year, when he was stopped by police – who have ramped up the number of random searches to try to combat criminals who use the vehicles.

Officers found 16 boxes containing 24 small canisters of the drug – each of which delivers a euphoric hit lasting only a matter of seconds when inhaled.

Mr Richards, who told officers that he planned to share the canisters with friends, was charged with possession of a psychoactive substance with intent to supply.

The drug, labelled “hippy crack” by tabloid newspapers, had for years been legally sold at parties and festivals, but was outlawed with the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act in May.  Its use, which is typically by inhaling the gas from a balloon, remains legal.

Mr Richards, who works a scaffolder, said: “I just didn’t think it was serious. I was just on my way to a house party. Me and a few mates chipped in and bought a big batch. I’m not a dealer.”

In comparison to Mr Richards’s case, a 26-year-old man is due to appear in court at the end of the month after police raided a lock up and found 14,000 canisters.

The former William Ellis pupil said it was his first brush with the law and has “really rattled my cage”. The conviction threatens his plans to travel later this year.

He said: “I was supposed to go to Hong Kong and New Zealand in March, now I just hope that I’m allowed into those counties.”

A pre-sentencing report, read to the court, stated: “He was not intending to make a financial gain from the endeavour. He stated he was attending a house party and that most of it was for his personal use. He did not understand the severity of the law because it is so recent.”

The report said that the teenager’s father had been killed last year in a traffic accident.

Issuing a 12-month community order and 40 hours of unpaid work, magistrate Petra Leseberg, said: “This could have had serious effects, whatever the costs of these things. There has been a number of deaths from nitrous oxide highs, as I’m sure you are aware.”

 

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